Evacuation orders issued for 1,500 properties in the Cariboo due to nearby wildfires

More than 1,500 properties in B.C.’s Cariboo region have been placed under evacuation order as wildfires rage throughout the area, with thousands more on alert in case the situation worsens.

The Cariboo Regional District issued the order Wednesday for 1,074 properties in the area from Flat Lake to Green Lake, south of 100 Mile House. Another order covers 482 properties to the east, from Canim Lake to Mahood Lake.

“Due to immediate danger to life safety due to fire, members of the RCMP or other groups will be expediting this action,” the district said.

The entire community of 100 Mile House and people in the nearby Horse Lake area are now under evacuation alerts. There are roughly 2,000 people living in 100 Mile, while the Horse Lake bulletin covers 3,086 properties. 

Interior Health says it has begun moving a small number of patients with complex needs from 100 Mile District General Hospital while the wildfire threat continues, but the hospital is otherwise operating normally.

People in those areas are asked to be prepared to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.

The Camsell Lake fire is seen from an evacuee’s vehicle on Tuesday. (Supplied by Ruby Prince)

There are seven wildfires of note burning in the Cariboo region as of Wednesday. The largest are burning around Flat Lake and Canim Lake.

To the north, another evacuation order remains in effect near Fort St. James because of a wildfire near Camsell Lake. It includes Yekooche First Nation reserves as well as portions of Rubyrock Lake Provincial Park and Sutherland River Park.

The B.C. Wildfire Service said much of the central part of the province is at extreme risk of wildfires, with more than 300 fires burning across B.C. Two dozen provincewide are highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety.

Helicopter to assist with evacuations

Major highways remain closed in the province Wednesday, including Highway 97 north of 70 Mile House as well as Highway 20 in the Anahim Lake region. The latter is the only highway through B.C.’s Chilcotin region.

The fire, known as the Big Stick Lake fire, jumped Highway 20 on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Ulkatcho First Nation. Because the road is closed, a military helicopter has been dispatched to Anahim Lake Airport to help shuttle evacuees out of the area.

Alerts and orders near Kamloops remain in place

Meanwhile to the south, evacuation orders issued for the Kamloops area late Tuesday are still in effect. The orders cover more than 180 properties around the city, including areas near Savona and Copper Creek.

Nearly 200 properties in the Barnes Lake area east of Kamloops are on alert as of Wednesday.

The Trozzo Creek wildfire, northeast of Winlaw in B.C.’s West Kootenay region, is one of more than 300 fires burning across B.C. (B.C. Wildfire Service/Twitter)

The fire responsible, known as the Sparks Lake fire, is roughly 402 square kilometres. There have been reports of buildings damaged or destroyed by the flames, but the Thompson-Nicola Regional District has not been able to verify the damage.

All the wildfire smoke in the Kamloops area has caused the air quality to deteriorate significantly. By mid-afternoon, the Air Quality Health Index had hit “very high” risk levels, meaning that strenuous outdoor activities should be avoided.

North of Lytton, an order is in place for 17 properties in the Gladwin Mobile Home Park and Jade Springs area, east of the village, because of the Lytton Creek wildfire.

Air quality statements in effect

Much of central and eastern British Columbia is under a special weather bulletin warning of smoky skies, as hundreds of wildfires rage out of control in the province.

Environment Canada issued the special air quality statement, warning of the smoke for the next few days in areas stretching from the Interior north to Yukon and east to the Alberta boundary.

Wildfire smoke is seen over the southern Okanagan community of Osoyoos, B.C., on Tuesday. Several areas are under hazy skies this week as hundreds of wildfires burn through the province. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Doug Lundquist, a meteorologist with the Meteorological Service of Canada, said B.C. residents should be prepared for smoky skies to linger into the fall.

“We’re going to see this for months,” he said in an interview. “There’s smoke all over, from Alaska down to Mexico. All we need … is the wind to go the wrong direction and bring it back up from other locations.”

Four areas in the province also remain under a heat warning, including the Fraser Canyon, where the village of Lytton was destroyed by fire last month, with daytime highs predicted of up to 38 C.

The province is asking residents to remain cautious and be responsible in preventing possible fires, after the wildfire service, RCMP and Kamloops Fire Rescue responded to five suspicious blazes Tuesday night. All are believed to have been human-caused.

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