B.C.'s Cariboo district says 62 homes have been lost so far to wildfires - InfoNews

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B.C.'s Cariboo district says 62 homes have been lost so far to wildfires

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September 05, 2017 - 4:45 PM

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. - A regional district that has been devastated by flames during British Columbia's worst recorded wildfire season says 62 homes and 140 outbuildings have been destroyed and the number is likely to rise.

The Cariboo Regional District said Tuesday the tally was done during assessments with the help of volunteer fire departments and search-and-rescue crews.

"I would like to express my sincere regrets to those who have lost homes and other structures in the Cariboo region," said district chairman Al Richmond in a news release.

"Also, thank you to the BC Wildfire Service and all the structural firefighters who continue to work so hard to protect our communities. I cannot express how thankful we are for your continued efforts."

The latest provincewide count of buildings lost was not immediately available, but Emergency Management BC said on Aug. 1 that more than 300 structures had been destroyed including 71 homes, 116 outbuildings such as sheds and barns and three commercial buildings.

Dozens of homes were destroyed in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and eight homes were destroyed in B.C.'s Lake Country in July.

Some communities have complained that the previous B.C. Liberal government didn't do enough to reduce the risk of wildfires. Since 2003, the province has put $78 million into a program to fund initiatives for the reduction of fuel in forests surrounding communities, and less than seven per cent of high-risk land has been treated.

Premier John Horgan said Tuesday it was "premature" to make judgments about whether the previous government did enough to address the threat of wildfires.

"When the fire season finally comes to an end, we will have ample opportunity to take a look at what happened, how it happened and what steps we can take in the future to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Federal and provincial ministers met Tuesday in Vancouver to discuss joint efforts to respond and rebuild from the wildfires and were set to hold a news conference late in the afternoon.

Normally fire season would be winding down in B.C., but with almost no rainfall in two months the wildfires show no signs of slowing.

Over the Labour Day weekend, dozens of residents near Summerland were forced to leave their homes as a fire spread, and evacuation orders were issued for more than 400 properties outside Cranbrook because of two separate fires.

B.C. Wildfire Service Chief Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek said there were 162 fires burning across the province, including four that were sparked Monday. Since April 1, the service has responded to 1,207 fires that have burned 11,489 square kilometres of land.

The province has spent $464 million battling the blazes so far, Skrepnek said.

Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley were under an air quality advisory Tuesday due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter, caused by smoke blowing into the region from wildfires burning in the Interior of B.C. and Washington state.

People with chronic health conditions, the elderly and infants should avoid strenuous exercise, and the situation will persist until the weather changes, Metro Vancouver officials said.

— By Laura Kane in Vancouver, with files from Linda Givetash

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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