The fire situation in B.C. remained relatively stable Monday after more than 50 new wildfires were reported over the weekend, forcing hundreds of people to leave their homes or be on evacuation alert.
Smoke continues to blanket large portions of the south coast including Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.
Air quality advisories have been issued and residents are being advised to avoid strenuous outdoor exercise or to remain indoors.
B.C. Forests Minister Steve Thomson said Monday it’s the earliest and most active fire season he can recall.
“We have a very, very challenging situation around the province as everybody knows,” he said. “An early start to the season with 27 new fires yesterday.”
Thomson said 866 fires so far this year have burned about 2,200 square kilometres of timber. About 200 fires are currently burning in the province, nearly 100 of them larger than 10 hectares.
Thomson cautioned people to be careful, pointing out 40 per cent of the fires were caused by humans. The province has more than burned through its entire fire budget of $63 million, he said, with roughly $80 million spent so far.
There are still contingency funds to draw on, however, and Thomson committed to provide the resources to fight the fires.
“We’ll look at bringing in resources from other provinces if necessary,” he said.
Active fires in Kootenays
Three new fires were reported Saturday in the Kootenays in southeastern B.C. The biggest, burning just four kilometres north of Kootenay Lake, has grown from 150 hectares to 300 hectares despite an aggressive attack on the fire. The lightning-caused fire is highly visible from the town of Nelson.
Two other fires are also burning in the Kootenays
An evacuation order affecting about 150 people In Kragmont has been downgraded to an alert allowing residents to return home, after firefighters made progress fighting the Baynes Lake wildfire — another lightning-caused wildfire — near Highway 93 southeast of Cranbrook. The fire is now about 25 per cent contained and has been reduced in size from 200 to 140 hectares.
A smaller 50-hectare fire, the Spillimacheen wildfire, is burning north of Highway 95 between Harrogate and Brisco. Residents in the area are on evacuation alert.
Wildfire near Port Hardy
The small town of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island continues to fight a 16-hectare wildfire burning just 1.5 kilometres from the town and less than 300 metres from some homes in the area.
Late Sunday, fire officials issued a statement saying the fire was 20 per cent contained. A one-hectare spot fire located approximately 400 metres from Port Hardy is 80 per cent contained.
Given the progress, residents have been allowed back into about 100 homes along Mayors Way and Upper Carnarvon down to Park Drive. However, those residents remain on evacuation alert.
Residents are being asked to restrict water use to only what is essential.
Pemberton wildfires growing
The Boulder Creek wildfire, burning 23 kilometres northwest of Pemberton Meadows, is now estimated at 5,000 hectares as it grew significantly over the weekend.
This lightning-caused wildfire is burning in steep terrain and heavy timber.
“This fire is displaying a vigorous and aggressive rate of spread,” the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch said in a statement.
“This type of fire behaviour consumes timber completely through to the tree tops, and has a high potential of spotting ahead of the fire. It also poses a safety risk for ground crews and aircraft conducting fire suppression efforts.”
An evacuation order issued midday Saturday for two pumice mines has been expanded to include both sides of the Lillooet Forest Service Road.
A local state of emergency has also been declared. The fire is generating a lot of smoke, visible in Pemberton and surrounding areas.
Another nearby major fire is the 20,000-hectare Elaho fire burning 67 kilometres northwest of Pemberton. It is also zero per cent contained.
Sproat Lake fire
Cabins at lake level with boat-only access were evacuated Saturday on Sproat Lake, northwest of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.
The B.C. Wildfire Management Branch said an aggressive 35-hectare fire burning on Dog Mountain is causing debris to roll downhill making the area dangerous. A firefighter reported early Sunday that a large boulder had rolled down the mountain to cabin level.
Firefighters are warning the public the area is active and dangerous and should not be approached by boat or on foot.