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Friday, March 1, 2024

Wildfires rage across British Columbia, forcing evacuations and air quality alerts

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British Columbia is facing a severe wildfire situation, with 191 active fires burning across the province as of Wednesday. The fires have forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes, and have caused poor air quality and smoky skies in many areas.

The Flood Falls Trail wildfire, which has grown to 4.5 square kilometres and is burning near Highway 1 west of Hope. The fire as prompted an evacuation order for 12 properties in Laidlaw and Hunter Creek areas, and an evacuation alert for other homes in the vicinity.

The Crater Creek wildfire, which has merged with another fire and is burning out of control southwest of Keremeos. The fire has led to an evacuation order for 13 properties along the Ashnola River and in the Snowy Protected area of Cathedral Provincial Park, including Cathedral Lakes Lodge. More than 100 people who were trapped by the fire have been successfully rescued. Another 74 properties along the Similkameen River are under evacuation alert due to the fire.

The Battleship Mountain wildfire, which has scorched 242 square kilometres and is threatening the municipality of Hudson’s Hope, southwest of Fort St. John. The fire is about 12 to 13 kilometres from the town, and has forced an evacuation order for all residents. The fire has also closed Mission Mountain Road and triggered evacuation alerts for properties on both sides of the western end of Seton Lake and the north shore of Anderson Lake.

The Fry Creek wildfire, which is burning near Salmo in the Southeast Fire Centre region. The fire has grown to 10 square kilometres and is classified as out of control. It has caused an evacuation order for 16 properties in the area.

The Heather Lake wildfire, which is burning near Pemberton in the Coastal Fire Centre region. The fire has reached 2.5 square kilometres and is also out of control. It has resulted in an evacuation alert for 15 properties near Heather Lake.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says the fires are being fueled by hot, dry and windy conditions, and warns of a “challenging” 24 hours ahead as they predict more fire growth and potential lightning strikes. An air quality advisory has been issued for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter from wildfire smoke in B.C. and the United States. The risk to health is either moderate or high across southern B.C., according to the Air Quality Health Index.

The province is also experiencing a heat wave, with 19 daily heat records broken on Tuesday, including a high of 42.2 C in Lytton. Seasonal temperatures are expected to return to southern B.C. starting Thursday.

The B.C. government has declared a provincial state of emergency due to the wildfires, and has requested federal assistance to help fight the fires and support evacuees. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he spoke with B.C. Premier John Horgan on Tuesday and assured him that the federal government stands ready to help.

The public is urged to stay informed about the wildfire situation, follow the directions of local authorities, and avoid any outdoor activities that could spark new fires or interfere with firefighting efforts.

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