Saturday, 23 September, 2017

BC wildfires: Crews fight fire with fire to protect Williams Lake

Fire crews working near Princeton Fire crews working near Princeton
Heather Davidson | 16 July, 2017, 01:28

This wind could cause significant growth of current wildfires as well of new fires to catch and spread aggressively.

Hundreds of wildfires are burning, many out of control, primarily across the Cariboo region, destroying property and displacing tens of thousands.

Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer for the BC Wildfire Service, says improved smoke conditions over the last 24 hours have permitted a more accurate size assessment of the almost 200 wildfires burning in the province, many of them in the Cariboo fire centre.

The province is reminding evacuees to register with the Canadian Red Cross and, if they need lodging or food, to register at emergency social services reception centres as well. About 1,800 families were expected to have received a $600 assistance package from the province by the end of Thursday, he added.

Crews from Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island joined the more than 3,000 people battling the flames.

Unit crews began lighting controlled fires west of Williams Lake on Thursday, where almost 11,000 people have been on standby since Monday to evacuate at a moment's notice.

"It was refreshing for me to get into Prince George ... and breathe the fresh air instead of the smoke-filled air we are experiencing here in the Cariboo", he said on Friday.

"Some are afraid. Some have young kids and they don't want to take the chance".

The BC Wildfire Service said the three major fires around the city are now 40 to 60 per cent contained.

"We [staff, and Delta Fire Department] actually met in a tent at last weekend's Tour de Delta to decide how we were going to proceed, what was needed and who would go", said Mayor Lois Jackson.

Anxiety is rising in Williams Lake as a number of fires burn around the city.

The Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced on Thursday that the Cariboo fire centre, 103,000 square kilometres in size, has been closed to backcountry campers and trail users as a safety precaution, allowing crews to focus on firefighting.

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