White Rock Lake wildfire responsible for half of B.C.'s evacuation orders

One major fire burning in the B.C. Interior is now responsible for about half of all evacuation orders issued in the province.

The White Rock Lake wildfire has been burning since July 13 and is currently estimated at 32,500 hectares. For the last 24 hours, crews have faced sustained winds of around 25 km/h, gusting up to 40 km/h.

“Wind gusts are expected to increase fire activity and challenge suppression efforts,” said Rob Schweitzer, director of fire centre operations with the BC Wildfire Service. “Strong winds are forecast again for tomorrow.”

Of particular concern is the northeast boundary of the fire. New evacuation orders were issued for hundreds of properties along Highway 97 on Wednesday night, and the road is now closed.

The fire burning between Kamloops and Vernon has jumped across Highway 97 just south of Monte Lake and continued growth is expected.

More information on the fire can be found on the BC Wildfire Service website.

Officials say the fire is responsible for putting more than 2,000 properties under evacuation order. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, 4,228 properties were under evacuation order across the entire province.

Those living in the wider vicinity of the White Rock Lake fire are also being warned to stay on alert.

“I urge you to maintain a heightened level of awareness of this evolving situation over the next 48 hours and please be prepared in advance for a potential evacuation alert or order,” Schweitzer said.

Officials say most of the 8,309 people currently registered as evacuees in B.C. have found accommodation, including in hotels. But many of the properties impacted are on farmland with livestock.

This week, the Township of Armstong, north of the White Rock Lake fire, opened the campground to evacuees “wishing to self contain camp on site and/or house livestock.”

There are now 292 wildfires considered to be active in B.C., according to the provincial wildfire service's interactive dashboard. Of those, 108 were sparked within the last week. A little over one-tenth of the fires were ignited in the last two days.