Unprecedented wildfires force evacuation of over 10 000 people in B.C., Canada

Unprecedented wildfires force evacuation of over 10 000 people in B.C., Canada

A province-wide state of emergency is in place in Canada's British Columbia since Friday, July 7, 2017, as widespread wildfires continue burning out of control across the province's southern and central parts. Officials are describing the situation as unprecedented. Hot and dry conditions accompanied by strong winds are expected to persist throughout the province.

As of Monday morning, July 10, there are over 130 wildfires burning across the province and more than 10 000 people forced to evacuate their homes, as a shift in wind direction Sunday afternoon moved wildfires within 1 km (0.6 miles) of the town of 100 Mile House in the South Cariboo region.

According to the CBC, there are around a dozen fires of concern over a 500-km (310 miles) stretch in the center of the province, from Princeton to Quesnel, which only shows the unique challenge firefighters and emergency officials are facing.

"As these fires rage, we are making decisions on the fly every day, every hour of every day, and changing those decisions sometimes in terms of priorities every day as well," said outgoing premier Christy Clark. 

The focus on Monday will shift to Williams Lake, the largest city in the Cariboo region, where 10 500 people are surrounded by fires on three sides.

The threat for us is this huge fire that seems to be progressing in the Chilcotin, proceeding towards Williams Lake. That's going to be difficult to control. There's a lot of uncertainty in that," said Al Richmond, the chair of Cariboo's Regional District

It's unknown how much properties have already been lost, CBC said, adding that thick smoke has blanketed much of the region. It could be weeks before tallies are made and families are informed if they have a home to return to.

According to Environment Canada, smoke is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility in a number of areas.

Air quality alerts are in place for the following regions:

  • 100 Mile House
  • Cariboo - north including Quesnel
  • Cariboo - south including Williams Lake
  • Fraser Canyon - north including Lillooet
  • Fraser Canyon - south including Lytton
  • Nicola
  • North Thompson
  • South Thompson
  • Central Okanagan
  • North Okanagan
  • South Okanagan
  • Prince George
  • Vanderhoof
  • Shuswap
  • Similkameen

People in these regions are being asked to avoid strenuous outdoor activities and to stay inside if they have breathing difficulties.

Featured image: Sunset during 11 hours of wildfires burning near 100 Mile House, B.C. Credit: Janette Curtis.

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