Photo BC Fire Service

Wildfire costs over $172 million so far

That’s the latest estimated cost for the BC Wildfire Service to fight the blazes.

Wildfire officials report 13 new fires sparked on Saturday, bringing the total number of fires burning in B.C. to 150. Since April 1, 820 blazes have burned 426,000 h.a.

Buses taking people home

Saturday was a travel day for evacuees leaving Prince George by bus headed for Williams lake. Another bus left on Monday at noon and more are to be scheduled as needed. This is for evacuees wanting to return home. For more on Williams Lake see page A2.

Remaining evacuees in Prince George were recently relocated from the P.G. CNC Campus to the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.

Cariboo evacuees take note

Provincial officials are warning those affected by wildfires to double-check that evacuation orders have indeed been lifted for their homes before returning. RCMP say several people have been turned away even after driving long distances because orders were not yet lifted for their areas.

Williams Lake

Slowly residents are starting to return to the lake city after officials lifted the evacuation order for the city and much of the surrounding area. The announcement was met with mixed reactions as the area remains under an evacuation alert due to nearby wildfires.

As the evacuees return, so are services and stores re-opening for business. Health services will be restored in phases.

Providing some relief for anxious residents, the Cariboo Fire Centre issued an update Friday morning stating there has been no significant growth of nearby wildfires, despite a wind event the night before.

Thousands of Williams Lake and area residents can pack their bags and come home.

Officials from the City of Williams Lake, Cariboo Regional District and Williams Lake Indian Band announced that several of the area’s evacuation orders due to wildfire in Williams Lake surrounding areas were lifted on Thursday.

“It is my pleasure to welcome you home,” said Mayor Walt Cobb.

“The most important consideration before we did this was, of course, your safety. Before deciding to return, and I cannot emphasize this enough, I encourage you to consider that wildfire activity continues in the area, air quality remains poor and the area still will remain on evacuation alert.

“You still need to be prepared to leave on short notice. The wildfires near our community are not 100 per cent contained and due to the changing weather conditions and evacuation could happen and the alert will remain in place.”

Many rural areas surrounding Williams Lake have been on an evacuation order since July 7, while city residents were ordered to leave following the second firestorm that occurred July 15.

Cache Creek, Kamloops

The Elephant Hill fire, near Cache Creek, is at 70,000 hectares and is 30-per-cent contained, while the Monte Lake fire southeast of Kamloops has burned through 150 hectares and is also 30-per-cent contained.

“The air tanker base in Kamloops set a single-day record for the amount of retardant used,” said chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek. “Almost 600,000 litres.”

Clinton added to 5,000

With Clinton being the latest community ordered to evacuate there are over 5,000 people around the province who can’t go home as they remain under evacuation order. See more about Clinton on page A2.

Meanwhile, BC Hydro has returned electricity to almost all customers, save for about 100.

Officials plan to have more information this week as to how much property damage the fires have caused so far.

Fire-safe your home

BC Wildfire Service is imploring people to take precautions and fire-safe their homes.

“There’s a lot of practical things that people can do that don’t take a lot of time,” said fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek. “Moving woodpiles away from their houses, moving propane tanks away, spacing out trees, cleaning out gutters… basically moving any potential combustibles away from the house.”

– with files from Black Press staff

 

Red Cross Centre ‘Welcome Home’ sign in Williams Lake as people return. Photo Angie Mindus