High winds intensified numerous wildfires in British Columbia, forcing more evacuation orders for residents in hundreds of homes Sunday night, says the BC Wildfire Service.
Some of the largest and most dangerous fires are breaking out in the southern interior of the Kamloops Fire Center, where most of the new evacuation orders have been issued.
Andrew Roebbelen of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District said there are 29 evacuation orders affecting more than 1,400 properties in the area.
There are at least a dozen wildfires in the district, including the Lytton, White Rock Lake, Tremont Creek and Sparks Lake fires, he said.
The City of Kamloops issued an evacuation order for more than 700 properties due to the sudden growth of the Tremont Creek Wildfire.
Exit orders were issued for hundreds of properties in Spallumcheen Township Sunday night as the White Rock Lake fire progressed, spokeswoman Lisa Gyorkos said.
The same fire destroyed homes in Mount Lake and Westwold about 60 kilometers west of Spallumcheen on August 4.
The city of Armstrong, with a population of about 5,000 people, has been placed on evacuation alert.
The city says in a statement that the alert is a precautionary measure due to the rapidly changing conditions of the White Rock Lake fire.
“The fires are unpredictable in nature, but remain approximately 20 kilometers from the city,” the statement said.
Roebbelen said in an interview Sunday that his biggest concern was the unstable weather forecast through Monday.
Hundreds of properties evacuated as wind fuels #BC #Wildfires growth.
“And that can mean good or bad for the fire. So the precipitation would be great, right now. But the winds, and if there is possible lightning, that would greatly affect the growth of the fire.”
The Okanagan Indian Band near Vernon, BC, ordered residents of about 80 properties to leave immediately.
BC Wildfire Information Officer Erika Berg said wind gusts that began in the middle of Sunday afternoon reached up to 60 kilometers per hour, pushing the flames beyond containment lines in multiple areas.
“It has been a very active night for the BC Wildfire Service,” Berg said, adding that strong winds were expected to persist.
The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation said in a press release that roads may be closed on limited notice due to wildfire activity. He called on people to avoid non-essential travel to leave evacuation routes open for those escaping the flames.
There are about 270 fires burning in BC. More than 30 of them are notable wildfires, which means they are highly visible or considered a danger to the public.
Berg said some of the fires that have seen significant growth include the White Rock Lake, Nk’Mip Creek and Lytton wildfires.
The White Rock Lake wildfire is estimated to be more than 620 kilometers in size and grew aggressively on its northeast and southern flanks.
The BC Wildfire Service website said it expects “extreme” behavior and is assessing the situation for when flights can resume to start dumping water or retardant on the fires.
“At this time, all air resources have been grounded,” the website said.
The Lytton Creek wildfire is estimated to be about 563 square kilometers and grew “fueled by hot, dry conditions and strong winds,” the website said.
The Nk’Mip Creek Wildfire, which is located six kilometers north of Osoyoos, bypassed the containment guards at the western base of Mount Baldy and is now estimated to be about 180 square kilometers.
Berg said the area burned this year so far is about seven times the 10-year average.
He also warned that extreme wildfire behavior was expected to persist.
“You could call it a bombing. We are working and we are still responding.”
This Canadian Press report was first published on August 15, 2021.