Wildfire forces evacuation east of Kelowna, B.C.

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — An evacuation order affecting about 1,100 people living east of Kelowna, B.C., was issued Thursday because of the threat of a wildfire.

Fire crews from the Joe Rich, Kelowna, Ellison and Lake Country departments along with the BC Wildfire Service were fighting the blaze that was reported shortly after 1:30 p.m.

The wildfire service says the blaze located roughly 25 kilometres from Okanagan Lake has grown to about 380 hectares in size. It’s suspected to be human-caused.

A reception centre for evacuees was being set up at a church in Kelowna.

Elsewhere, calmer weather and continuing progress battling some of the other wildfires in the province means more people can return home while campers and hikers will be able to access more of the backcountry in the Interior.

The Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operation Centre said evacuation orders in the Maeford Lake, Tatla Lake and Kleena Kleene areas were downgraded to alerts.

The B.C. government said select campsites and trails in the Cariboo fire centre were scheduled to reopen at noon on Friday.

It follows a decision on Wednesday to rescind a sweeping ban on access to Crown land in the region.

“We wanted to get a return to normalcy as soon as it was safe, as soon as it was practical,” said Kevin Skrepnek with the wildfire service.

The sites were closed July 13, one week after a lightning storm tore across the central Interior, sparking dozens of separate wildfires that forced 45,000 people from their homes.

The number of evacuation orders has declined over the last two weeks and Emergency Management BC said earlier Thursday about 2,500 people remained out of their homes as 154 fires continued to burn.

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