B.C. extends state of emergency due to wildfires for two weeks

VICTORIA — British Columbia's public safety minister says the province is extending its state of emergency to support the response to wildfires for another two weeks.

Mike Farnworth says the extension recognizes that the potential for significant wildfire activity persists even as cooler weather helps firefighting crews.

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Forests Minister Katrine Conroy is also encouraging people to be careful in the forests to prevent any more human-caused blazes.

The number of fires of note, meaning they are either highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety, has dropped to 16 from over 30 earlier in August.

Emergency Management BC says there were 21 evacuation orders covering 3,754 properties as of Monday evening, down from 3,927 properties the day before, while residents of another 6,073 properties were told to be ready to leave on short notice.

The emergency operations centre for the central Okanagan says the BC Wildfire Service has completed planned ignitions around the destructive White Rock Lake fire that forced the evacuation of 1,316 properties west of Okanagan Lake.

The ignitions resulted in control lines being established in several key areas at the fire's northeast flank, reducing its risk of growth, the centre says.

Containment of the White Rock Lake fire might be achieved in the next seven to 10 days "versus upwards of six weeks if the fire was left to naturally reach containment lines," the wildfire service says in an online post. Significant work took place over the last two weeks to clear fuel from the ground in preparation for the planned ignition, the service adds.

The emergency centre says the fire service will provide recommendations as soon as possible on when local governments may lift evacuation orders or alerts. It's anticipated that residents will be provided with a guide for returning home and invited to an information session by the middle of this week, it says.

Elsewhere, the fire service says the two-square-kilometre Skaha Creek fire near Penticton was not threatening any structures and cooler weather with a chance of showers was expected to help crews make progress containing it on Tuesday.

The City of Penticton has activated its emergency operations centre to support the response to the fire, while the Penticton Indian Band issued an evacuation alert for 240 properties as a precaution.

The B.C. government reports that 1,560 wildfires have scorched close to 8,660 square kilometres of land since the fire season began on April 1.

Environment Canada has issued air quality statements stretching from the south Thompson to west Kootenay regions in B.C.'s Interior due to wildfire smoke.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2021.

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