Thousands flee homes under eerie red skies in B.C. as raging fires send gigantic flames barrelling toward entire communities

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The North Okanagan was one of several parts of the Interior left in a dark red twilight in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, after thick smoke blocked out the sun on August 15, 2021. Picture: Screenshot from Twitter

Thousands of properties remain under evacuation order Monday after “exceptional” high winds fuelled dozens of wildfires across B.C., sending flames barrelling toward entire communities.

Hundreds fled their homes under smoke-filled orange skies on Sunday as evacuation orders came down, one after the other. Most of the newest evacuation orders are in the Kamloops area, where some of the of the largest and most dangerous fires in the province are burning.

There are at least a dozen wildfires in the Kamloops Fire Centre district, including the Lytton, White Rock Lake, Tremont Creek and Sparks Lake fires.

Officials confirmed Monday the White Rock Lake fire has “significantly damaged” multiple buildings in the quiet Killiney Beach area, north of Kelowna on the edge of Okanagan Lake.

There has also been “limited damage” in West Kelowna, to the south, due to the separate Mount Law fire.

Due to evolving conditions crews have not been able to complete a full assessment of structure damage. More information will be provided to property owners and the media as it becomes available,” reads an email from Central Okanagan Emergency Operations.

To the northwest, more than 730 properties west of Kamloops remain on evacuation alert due to the sudden growth of the Tremont Creek wildfire. Dozens more homes in the Cherry Creek area, south of Highway 1, are under evacuation order.

The Okanagan Indian Band near Vernon, B.C., is still ordering residents of about 80 properties to leave immediately if they have not yet done so. The North Okanagan was one of several parts of the Interior left in a dark red twilight in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, after thick smoke blocked out the sun.

In all, based on the Sunday count, the province said more than 6,600 properties had been ordered evacuated. Another 16,000 were on alert.

Fast-growing fire burning near West Kelowna

Another out-of-control wildfire, first spotted Sunday between Peachland and West Kelowna, just north of a major highway, forced nearly 500 evacuations in the Glenrosa neighbourhood of West Kelowna within hours.

Evacuation orders issued overnight also affect homes in Peachland.

Fire crews say “exceptional” winds quickly pushed the newly ignited Mount Law fire to eight square kilometers — an area twice the size of Stanley Park.

The fire quickly grew and became, quite frankly, a nightmare for our community,” West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said Monday in an interview.

Like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” he continued. “The fire moved in almost every direction and really acted like a snake. It surrounded an area of our community and then came down the hill towards the homes that were closest.

Elsewhere in the Interior, entire communities remain on evacuation alert due to separate fires. The City of Armstrong, with a population of about 5,000 people, has said residents should be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. The same goes for the City of Merritt, which is home to another 7,000 people.

The Coquihalla Highway, a major link between the Interior and the Lower Mainland, remains closed between Hope and Merritt as fire burns on both sides of the road.

Drivers who took the mountain route Sunday while it was still open saw flames snapping at the edge of the pavement.

There are nearly 270 active wildfires burning provincewide. Incessant heat and high winds have made the situation worse for weeks, but the B.C. Wildfire Service expects a break in the weather on Monday.

We are looking at some reprieve. The heat wave is behind us. We’re looking at precipitation, even, in the southern Interior, which has been a consistent area of concern for us this season,” fire information officer Erika Berg told CBC Daybreak South in an interview Monday.

We are anticipating some cooler temperatures, which will aid our fire suppression efforts, and [the] winds will not be as intense as they were last night,” she said.

Air quality in the Kamloops and North Okanagan areas remained poor early Monday. Cooler weather is expected to help with the haze from smoke.

Fires this year have so far burned a total of 7,667 square kilometres of land, which accounts for an area twice the size of Metro Vancouver.

The service said the total area burned is about seven times greater than the 10-year average.

Evacuation centers have been set up throughout the province to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire. Please register before!

Things to take home:

  1. Thousands of properties in B.C. remain under evacuation order Monday, including entire cities and communities in the Interior.
  2. Multiple buildings have been damaged by two separate fires in the Kelowna area.
  3. Some of the largest and most dangerous fires are burning near Kamloops.
  4. The Coquihalla Highway remains closed between Hope and Merritt.
  5. Drivers are being warned highways through the Interior could shut down with little to no notice because of wildfires. Non-essential travel is being discouraged to keep evacuation routes open for locals.
  6. For a full list of evacuation orders and alerts, visit Emergency Information B.C. [CBC]

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1 Comment

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