Over 37,000 people evacuated due to forest fires in B.C.

KAMLOOPS, B.C. – As many as 37,000 people have been forced from their homes ahead of fast-moving wildfires in British Columbia.

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone released the figure today saying there’s a lot of uncertainty with the fire situation and it could be challenging for many weeks to come.  In the Okanagan, Lake Country fire chief Steve Windsor says numerous homes have been lost after a fire that started yesterday quickly spread into homes above Okanagan Lake.

B.C. fire information officer Ellie Dupont says the blaze that started in the central Interior community of Ashcroft over a week ago is now more than 420 square kilometres in size and has burned through a few towns.

She couldn’t say how many buildings have been destroyed.

Dupont says that fire is burning very aggressively because of the weather, the dry fuel and the region’s topography and every specialist assessing the blaze has commented about its “nasty” behaviour.

Officials say unsettled weather could continue to pose challenges to efforts to contain the violent wildfires plaguing British Columbia.

Environment Canada says it expects scattered thunderstorms and strong winds gusting up to 70 km/h to develop across much of the central and southern Interior.

B.C.’s chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek says there are over 160 fires burning in the province, 16 of which started yesterday.  There are still no forest fires in Northeast B.C., but a campfire ban remains in place for almost the entire Province.

Highways Closed

Several Highways are closed around the Province.  This is the latest list as of 1 p.m. July 16.  Before you travel, make sure to check www.drivebc.ca for latest information roads around B.C.

Closed
Highway 1 from the Highway 97C junction near Ashcroft to about 5 km east of Cache Creek.
Highway 97 from Cache Creek to Clinton.
Highway 99 from Highway 97 Junction to Hat Creek Road. Local Traffic only from Lillooet to Hat Creek Road
Highway 97 from Junction of Highway 24 to Timothy Lake Road (25km north of 100MH), but currently open SB for evacuees
Highway 97 from Williams Lake to McLeese Lake
Highway 5A between Princeton and Allison Lake

Directional Closure
Highway 97 southbound between Kersley (15km south of Quesnel) and McLeese Lake.
Highway 20 from Chilcotin Bridge to Alexis Creek west of Williams Lake (EB OPEN for evacuees, WB closed except for emergency responders)
Highway 24 At Horse Lake Road (30km from 100MH) to all traffic destined for 100MH but open for traffic headed to Clinton.

Partial Closure (Local Traffic/Supplies Only)
Highway 1 westbound from Savona to Cache Creek

Click the image below for a PDF version of this map.

How can you help

Canadian Red Cross

The Red Cross is currently supporting the province in providing help to those living in areas impacted by the wildfires.

You can make a financial donation here, which will be used to provide essentials like cots, blankets, services, financial assistance for food and more.

BC Liquor Stores

You can make an in-store donation at any BC Liquor store. Funds are being collected for BC Fires Red Cross relief efforts, and will go directly to the Red Cross.

“Show your support by making a donation of $2 or $5 – or multiples thereof at any BC Liquor Store. Every dollar counts.”

BC SPCA

The BC SPCA has been forced to relocate at least 40 animals from shelters near active wildfires.

You can help by donating online – they’re not looking for any physical donations just yet.

“We are also doing what we can to aid local organizations and emergency response on the ground to ensure any other animals that need help will get it!”

Salvation Army

Emergency response units are at several locations handing out food, water and various types of support to all those affected by wildfires.

“It is our mission to offer hope and practical support in the midst of challenging circumstances,” says the Salvation Army’s John McEwan, who is the Emergency Disaster Services Director for British Columbia.

You can make a donation here.