The BC Wildfire Service says crews are taking advantage of calmer weather conditions to fight back wildfires throughout the Cariboo. But the danger is far from over yet for beleaguered residents.
Information Officer Kevin Skrepnik says there are 159 fires province wide including 15 fires that are threatening communities. Only 17 new fires were reported Sunday and none of them are considered to be serious. “Our efforts continue to focus on public safety and keeping the provincial highways and other roads open. Anything that serves or could potentially serve as an evacuation route is a priority for us right now,” said Skrepnik.
There are more than 200 aircraft supporting the efforts of ground crews in fire fights, including air tankers and helicopters. When you account for firefighters, logistical staff and administrators, more than 3,000 people are working the fires right now. More than 450 people have come from out of province to support fire fighting efforts and another 50 specialists will be arriving from Australia later this week. “These are not front line fire fighting positions but specialists and support staff in difficult positions to fill, requiring a lot of experience and training,” said Skrepnik.
Weather conditions through the Cariboo will include light winds through Tuesday with cooler temperatures. However unsettled conditions are expected Wednesday and Thursday. Lightning storms are expected Wednesday although it’s not clear whether there will be any rain associated with those lightning storms through the Chilcotin and southern parts of the Interior. Thursday could bring widespread rain to many of the fire ravaged areas. “A bit of a doubled edged sword there,” said Skrepnik. He added, “although the rain would be welcome, that could bring some lightning as well.”
189,000 hectares of forest have burned in B.C. since April 1st. That’s already well over the ten year average of 154,000 thousand hectares. And with the season hardly half over, the 2017 total could surpass the 2014 fire season when more than 359,000 hectares of forest went up in flames. The cost of fighting fires this year has already topped $90 million.