The B.C. Wildfire Service says they’re still busy, but fire activity is trending in the right direction thanks to cooler temperatures in much of the province.
BC Wildfire operations manager Todd Nessman said at an Aug. 24 press conference, that 246 wildfires are burning in the province and 24 fires of note. Nessman said B.C. is averaging four to six new fires a day, down from the estimated five to 10 new fires a day just over a week ago.
The decrease in fire activity has allowed BC Wildfire (BCWS) to downsize key assets like helicopters and air tankers. Evacuation alerts and orders have also started to lift for some areas.
Nessman said areas like the Cariboo and South Okanagan regions remain dry and could still see fire activity. Nessman’s comments came as a new wildfire broke out on Westside Road in the Central Okanagan, on Tuesday. Several homes in the area have been ordered to evacuate.
Dawn Roberts of the B.C. RCMP said, 650 RCMP officers have been deployed to evacuation areas with a focus on areas near Merritt, Kamloops, Oliver and Vernon.
RCMP officers are conducting roving patrols in evacuated areas.
In one instance, Roberts said, officers stopped a vehicle and found the occupants were not from the area and that they were allegedly in possession of break-in tools. Another stop found an occupant who was in breach of conditions for an arson investigation.
Roughly 3,500 personnel are fighting wildfires across B.C., including out-of-province personnel from Australia, Mexico, Quebec, Yukon and Parks Canada. Australian crews are set to return home Sunday, Aug. 29 and Mexican crews are expected to conclude their tour in early September.
But as fire activity decreases, COVID-19 infections in B.C. are increasing. Nessman said BCWS has been using rapid antigen tests to check firefighters for COVID-19 and decrease the likelihood of outbreaks among fire crews.
“Several have come back with positive tests. We are working with Interior Health and taking all the necessary steps and precautions around that. In terms of mitigation, we continue to follow the guidance we receive from the public health officals, the provincial government and the BC CDC around steps we can take to mitigate and manage the situation,” Nessman said.
Looking ahead, Nessman said BCWS expects a continued decrease in fire activity and continued downsizing of assets into the fall.
Currently in B.C. there are 24 evacuation orders impacting 3,782 properties and 111 alerts impacting 12,825 properties. B.C. remains under a state of emergency due to the wildfire situation until Aug. 31.
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