First Nation, regional district in central B.C. Interior orders wildfire evacuations

VICTORIA — Weekend winds in British Columbia's central Interior resulted in increased wildfire activity and saw evacuation orders in remote areas north of Burns Lake.

The Cheslatta Carrier Nation and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako both issued evacuation orders Saturday night due to the Wells Creek wildfire.

The wildfire is listed as out of control and has covered 79 square kilometres.

The evacuation orders cover properties along Ootsa Lake Road and several Cheslatta Carrier Nation reserve sites.

A BC Wildfire Service information officer said Sunday the weather in the area is improving, with reduced winds and a return to more seasonal temperatures.

"We had a big cold front come in through the northern areas on Friday and Saturday, and that brought a bunch of wind with it, so we saw a lot of fire growth," said Nic Kokolski. "Now, the winds have subsided in the north, so that's looking helpful there."

But B.C.'s north and central regions and the rest of the province could benefit from some sustained precipitation, Kokolski said.

"We're still not anticipating significant amounts of rain," he said.

The Wells Creek evacuation orders came after similar orders for a total of 50 properties in West Kelowna and wildfire areas south of Kamloops and in the Shuswap Lake areas were downgraded to alert status Saturday.

The move means dozens of people in the Kamloops, Shuswap and Kelowna areas can return to their homes, but regional fire officials said residents should still be prepared to leave on short notice.

There are currently 405 properties on evacuation order and 20,011 on evacuation alert in the West Kelowna area.

The BC Wildfire Service reported 438 active fires in B.C. Sunday, with 23 new wildfires reported over the past 24 hours.

There have been 2,071 wildfires in B.C. so far this season, said the wildfire service.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2023.

The Canadian Press