Cool, damp weekend ahead but wildfire on Vancouver Island raises concerns

Cool, damp weekend ahead but wildfire on Vancouver Island raises concerns

A cooler, showery weekend is forecast for most of British Columbia, potentially offering a breather to exhausted crews battling more than 250 active wildfires in all corners of the province.

Those include the first significant fire of the season on Vancouver Island, where the Cowichan Valley Regional District has declared a state of local emergency covering an area west of Ladysmith after a fire was sparked yesterday.

No homes are threatened by the estimated 20-hectare blaze, but an evacuation order has been posted for some natural gas infrastructure operated by FortisBC in a rural area northwest of the town.

The BC Wildfire Service says an initial attack crew of 10 people and several aircraft were working with firefighters from numerous local fire departments and more resources are expected to be assigned.

The fire danger on much of Vancouver Island and parts of the Coastal Fire Centre is ranked at high to extreme, similar to ratings in portions of B.C.’s five other fire centres.

Evacuation orders and alerts are posted for many of the province’s 30 highly visible or potentially life-threatening wildfires, but Environment Canada is calling for clouds, showers and daytime temperatures down to the mid-teens this weekend in some areas of the southern Interior.

Evacuation orders were downgraded to an alert Friday for more than 650 homes in the Lower Nicola area, west of Merritt.

Residents were forced to leave their home five days ago due to the Lytton Creek wildfire.

The nearby city of Merritt remains on an evacuation alert.

The Ministry of Forests says nearly 8,600 square kilometres has been burned by wildfires since the start of the fire season and wildfire officials warn conditions this year match those seen in 2017, when more than 12,000 square kilometres of land was lost in B.C.’s second-worst fire season on record.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press

B.C. Wildfires 2021