Evacuation orders and alerts expand as out of control wildfire grows northwest of Kamloops

Hundreds of residents northwest of Kamloops, B.C., have been asked to be ready to leave their homes at a moment's notice due to the Sparks Lake wildfire, which has grown to an estimated 40 square kilometres since Monday.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District issued new evacuation alerts Wednesday afternoon for 298 properties in the Loon Lake and Hiham Lake areas.

That was on top of 150 properties already impacted in the Deadman, Red Lake, Tranquille Valley & and Vidette Lake areas.

More than 25 properties near Red Lake have been ordered to evacuate, up from nine on Tuesday.

And as of Wednesday afternoon, 56 firefighters and 10 helicopters were fighting the flames.

“It’s still out of control, and due to the hot and dry weather that we’re seeing right now, we’re seeing increased fire behaviour,” said fire information officer Shaelee Stearns with the B.C. Wildfire Service.

Marshall Potts and his partner, Jo-Anne Beharrell, left their ranch Tuesday afternoon, photo albums and Potts’ favourite guitars in hand.

“It’s not just about your home or your belongings,” Beharrell said. “It’s about what you do for your life. And your livelihood. It’s a little overwhelming.”

Potts said he was emotionally and mentally exhausted, and hopes sharing his story helps people realize how easy it is for wildfires to spark, and how quickly they can spread.

Potts and Beharrell, who had registered as evacuees in Kamloops, were planning to try to drive up the mountain Wednesday evening if they could, to see if it was still standing.

“Our intentions are to go back as soon as they let us,” Potts said. “Because we want to do a health check on the (cows and chickens) and make sure they’re OK.”

The Sparks Lake wildfire, which is believed to be human-caused, is one of five so-called wildfires of note burning in the province. It’s a list that’s quickly growing.

“The increased temperatures and the heat wave that we’re seeing is definitely drying out those deeper fuels,” Stearns said

While Potts and Beharrell say they are extremely grateful for the firefighters battling to save their home in extreme conditions, they also have a message to people who may not dispose of their cigarettes properly, or don’t abide by the provincial-wide campfire ban now in effect.

“It might just be your summer home…but there’s a lot of people that live in these places full time,” Beharrel said.

“A mistake can be be a ripple effect,” Potts added. “It can take peoples livelihoods away.”