Troops deployed to help B.C. wildfire fight as more evacuations ordered

Heat, no humidity and bad weather across southern B.C. mean there is little room for error with wildfires. Dozens of evacuation orders and scores of alerts a reminder to travelers that situations can change on a dime. Liza Yuzda reports.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The number of people impacted by hundreds of B.C. wildfires continues to grow, the flames being whipped up by strong winds in the southeastern part of the province.

To date, more than 342,000 hectares have been lost to the fires, that’s approximately 100,000 more hectares than average by mid-July.

BC Wildfire Service officials say that as the situation worsens, resources will be in place to handle it.

The Canadian Forces has deployed additional support, with 250 military personnel on the way to fight the fires. They will join firefighting crews after they have been briefed in Vernon.

More than 100 firefighters are also coming from Quebec on Friday, and another100 firefighters from Mexico are set to arrive over the weekend.

They will arrive in Abbotsford, be checked over by Fraser Health, and then deployed to the most needed areas.

They will assist the already 3,100 people battling the fires. That includes more than 1,100 contractors, and 178 aircraft personnel.

In the last 24 hours, six more evacuation orders have been issued in the province. They include more than 170 properties in the Regional District of Central Kootenay, and more than 100 properties in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

More than 4,300 properties have been evacuated so far this year due to the fires.

Many evacuation centres have been set up, but there are complaints that they are several hours away.

Complaints have also been raised regarding the limited or no space available in nearby hotels, which puts people without family and friends to stay with in a difficult spot.

“This unprecedented fire season has certainly created challenges with evacuees,” Peter Brock with Emergency Management BC said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has only hurt efforts to provide accommodation for people forced from their homes.

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There are 18,000 properties are under an evacuation alert, and anyone in those areas is urged to be ready. That includes reaching out to friends and family to have a place to go, if they are ordered to leave.

There are 18 emergency centres set up, but Emergency Management BC says they are working to add more.

Dawn Roberts, spokesperson with the BC RCMP, says there will be more RCMP members assisting with evacuations in the central Interior and the Okanagan in the coming days.

“We are also working very closely with local search and rescue personnel and Conservation officers to do door-to-door evacuations,” Roberts said.

She says that there have been no reports of looting for homes which have been left vacant due to the fires.

It comes as several communities across southern B.C. reported severe drought conditions Thursday. The Salmon River watershed, Kettle River watershed, Coldwater River, are among the areas now sitting at level 4 drought, out of a possible 5. The lack of rain over the last five weeks, along with record-breaking heat, are to blame according to the province.

The drought conditions haven’t impacted firefighting efforts just yet, officials say.

People in the Thompson Okanagan regions are asked to reduce their water use by 30 per cent as a response to the recent conditions.

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