Wildfire shuts down highway to Bella Coola again as new evacuation alerts, orders pop up in B.C. | CBC News

Highway 20 on B.C.’s Central Coast is closed in both directions again as several new evacuation alerts came into effect Friday and more than 400 active wildfires burned throughout the province. 

On Friday evening the B.C. Wildfire Service said it was responding to the growing Young Creek wildfire located within Tweedsmuir Park, approximately 35 kilometres west of Anahim Lake.

As a result, access to Bella Coola is cut off as an approximately 60-kilometre stretch of Highway 20 is closed in both directions with no available detour. 

The highway was closed earlier this week but had since reopened. 

Evacuation alerts in the Cariboo 

Also on Friday evening, the Cariboo Regional District issued an evacuation alert for an area covering more than 14,000 hectares of land, including the community of Anahim Lake and the Ulkatcho First Nation, as a result of the Trumpeter Mountain fire. 

This alert affects 300 dwellings and more than 375 people, the district said, in addition to those residing on Ulkatcho First Nation lands. 

The district also issued an evacuation order Friday evening for two parcels of rural land covering 4,329 hectares, which affects one remote dwelling. 

An evacuation order means residents should leave immediately, whereas an evacuation alert means residents should prepare to evacuate their homes with little to no notice.

As of Friday evening there are 273 fires in B.C. listed as out of control, meaning they are continuing to spread and aren’t responding to suppression efforts, and 27 ranked as fires of note, meaning they are a threat to safety. 

Earlier this week, B.C. reported more than 14,000 square kilometres had been burned so far this season, surpassing the previous record set in 2018.

Federal and provincial government officials have said B.C. and Canada are on the way to the worst fire season in 100 years.

Evacuation alert expanded to Cranbrook airport

North of Cranbrook in southeast B.C., the St. Mary’s River wildfire had burned 26 square kilometres of land as of Thursday afternoon.

Environment Canada said the forecast for the area is to remain hot and dry for the weekend and next week.

Late Thursday, the Regional District of East Kootenay expanded an evacuation alert to 71 properties, including the Canadian Rockies International Airport near Cranbrook, west of where the fire started earlier in the week.

The airport remains open despite the evacuation alert, but manager Tristen Chernove said some flights have been cancelled due to smoky conditions.

Beige wildfire smoke rises from a fire on a flat, rural area.
Smoke from the St. Mary’s River wildfire is pictured in an undated photo. (Supplied by the B.C. Wildfire Service)

Chernove says passengers should monitor their email for latest updates on their flights.

“The airlines get pretty overwhelmed with calls,” he said. “But if there is a schedule change imminently happening, the airlines will reach out to their customers.” 

Early Friday afternoon, the district issued an evacuation alert for another 17 properties located in the Old Airport and Lakit Lake area north of Cranbrook.

Also on Thursday, the district issued an area restriction order for the vicinity of the St. Mary’s River wildfire, prohibiting anyone from staying in or entering the area about 12 kilometres northeast of Cranbrook except with permission from the province.

‘Out-of-control’ fire detected near Kamloops

The B.C. Wildfire Service said Friday that more than 600 lightning strikes were reported in the Kamloops area as a storm swept through.

A new out-of-control wildfire visible from the City of Kamloops was reported about 11 kilometres southwest of the Interior city on Friday afternoon.

Also near Kamloops, the B.C. Wildfire Service said evacuation alerts were in place for more than 100 properties northeast of the city as crews battled the Lower East Adams Lake fire.

Additional firefighters

British Columbia was expecting the arrival of 100 firefighters from Brazil on Friday, adding to the province’s growing international wildfire force.

B.C. Wildfire Service spokesperson Cliff Chapman said about 500 international firefighters are already in the province, boosting the ranks of the more than 2,000 provincial personnel on the front lines battling hundreds of blazes.

Chapman said the arrivals from Brazil will join firefighters from Mexico, the United States and Australia currently in B.C.

Bowinn Ma, the provincial emergency management and climate readiness minister, recently requested 1,000 international firefighters through the non-profit Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, which co-ordinates national and international fire management.

Three people with yellow helmets and dark green uniforms walk on charred grassland with fire.
Firefighters are pictured combatting a fire in a rainforest in Brazil. B.C. Wildfire Service says 100 firefighters from Brazil are set to arrive in the province on Friday to boost the more than 2,000 provincial wildfire service personnel on the front lines battling hundreds of blazes. (Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty Images)

Chapman says the Brazilians and the international firefighters already in B.C. will provide much needed relief and assistance to crews.

He says cooler temperatures and potential rain are easing wildfire conditions in northern areas, but continued hot weather in southern B.C. is shifting fire activity to the southern Interior and southeast.

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