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30 wildfires active in Kamloops Fire Centre and thousands of hectares burned after 'unprecedented' weekend fires

Wildfire air support flying over Kamloops Friday evening, July 7 as smoke from wildfires in the area dim the sunset.
July 09, 2017 - 5:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - Roughly 30 fires continue to burn in the Kamloops Fire Centre, with thousands of hectares of land scorched this weekend.

Nearly 6,000 hectares of land has been burnt in the region, says Fire Information Officer Tracey Wynnyk. The majority of that is around Ashcroft and Cache Creek, where a blaze has reached an estimated 4,400 hectares. Among the buildings lost to the fire are a trailer park and some homes, says Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta.

“At the airport, the two hangars were lost and the contents of those hangars and the house adjacent to those hangars, they’re flattened, they’re gone,” he says. “What I’m lead to believe is all 30 trailers in the [Boston Flats] trailer park have been burned.”

A specialized incident management team has been brought in to help organize efforts around the fire as well. The community of Cache Creek and surrounding rural areas have been evacuated.

Multiple fires near the community of Little Fort north of Kamloops continue. People in the community and the surrounding area have been evacuated, with many headed to Clearwater. Hundreds of hectares have been burnt between the three fires.

North of Princeton another large fire burns, currently around 1,500 hectares, according to estimations on the B.C. Wildfire website. Evacuation orders and alerts are in place.

Ranta, who's also chair of the Thompson Nicola Regional District, estimates 1,500 people have been evacuated in the regional district, mostly around Little Fort and Cache Creek. Evacuees from Cache Creek have been directed to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops by the regional district, where services, including the Red Cross, await them. Little Fort area evacuees have been directed to Clearwater.

Smaller spot fires have been recorded in the Okanagan, Shuswap and Thompson regions as well, all part of the Kamloops Fire Centre.

A fire spotted yesterday near Oyama Lake has been knocked down and mopped up, Wynnyk says and will be patrolled by provincial crews.

In the Shuswap highlands north of Shuswap Lake, a cluster of fires were spotted on Celista Mountain by planes yesterday, July 8. Wynnyk says they are not currently a priority for a couple reasons. The fires are not threatening public safety or structures currently, and they’re actually quite high in the mountains, meaning they’re mostly surrounded by snow and rocks, slowing the spread of flames.

South of Falkland a trio of fires were spotted today by a fire warden. Wynnyk says crews are on scene putting them out. Two are listed as spot fires, less than 100 meters square, while a third is 1.5 hectares.

“Today they had six firefighters working those fires,” Wynnyk says. “It’s just a little cluster that exists there, all very close to each other.”

A fire reported on Mt. Lolo near Kamloops has not been verified by the wildfire service, Wynnyk says.

“The Mt. Lolo ghost fire we can’t find,” she says. “We’ve had calls on it and people asking about the Mt. Lolo fire.”

A fire earlier in the year had been reported on Mt. Lolo, and fire crews put it out. She believes rumours of a new fire has spread on social media. None of the callers who’ve reported it have seen it first hand and wildfire service patrols have investigated, including multiple flights over the area, and not spotted the rumoured flames.

So far this year there’s actually been fewer fires reported when compared to the same period last year, with 86 recorded in the Kamloops Fire Centre between April 1, 2017 and July 9, 2017. Last year over the same period, 91 were recorded. However, last year 239 hectares had been burned by July 20, compared to the estimated 6,000 this year.

Wynnyk says the big difference is the conditions in south and central B.C. right now, with nearly no rain since the beginning of the summer.

“Last year our summer wasn’t as hot this early in the year,” she says. “Fire behaviour was not as aggressive.”

Speaking to a crowd of evacuees at a public meeting yesterday evening at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, wildfire service manager Rob Schweitzer said the previous 24 hours between Friday evening, July 7, and Saturday evening, July 8 was unprecedented.

"We probably haven't seen this sort of activity that involves so many residents and people in the history of the province of B.C.," he said.

Deputy manager Cliff Chapman agreed.

"I've been in this business for 17 years," he said. "I haven't experienced a day like we experienced yesterday. What our crews went through, not just in the Kamloops area, and Cache Creek area but up in Little Fork, down in Princeton and up in the Cariboo Fire Centre; we've never seen wild scale evacuations like that."

Multiple large wildfires are burning in the Cariboo Fire Centre — which is adjacent to the Kamloops Fire Centre — as well, near the communities of Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and 108 Mile House, and evacuations have been ordered for properties near the fires.

Premier Christy Clark was in Kamloops today, July 9, and announced $100 million to support affected communities province-wide. A province-wide state of emergency was declared on Friday, July 7.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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