B.C. Travel Restrictions Imposed as Wildfires Rage On
B.C. Government Declares State of Emergency due to Wildfires
The B.C. government declared a provincewide state of emergency on Friday evening, as hundreds of wildfires burned across the province, destroying properties and forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes. The state of emergency gives the province the authority to take every action necessary to protect people and communities from the threat of wildfires.
The emergency management ministry said 30,000 people have been told to leave their homes, and a further 36,000 have been told to get ready to leave at a moment’s notice. A list of evacuation orders and alerts is posted online by Emergency Info B.C.
Premier David Eby announced the state of emergency at a news conference Friday, urging British Columbians to stay alert, listen to local officials and follow evacuation orders. “If you get an evacuation order, please leave,” Eby said.
The Travel Restrictions
Eby also asked people to avoid non-essential travel to affected areas, especially the southern Interior, where some of the most destructive and volatile fires are located. He said the travel restrictions are necessary to give firefighters space to fight the fires and to prevent further spread of the flames.
The travel restrictions apply to all non-essential travel within and into areas under evacuation order or alert, as well as areas with high or extreme fire danger ratings. The restrictions do not apply to people who need to travel for work, medical appointments, family emergencies or other essential reasons.
The province said it will enforce the travel restrictions through roadblocks, signage and patrols. Anyone who violates the restrictions could face a fine of up to $575.
The Fire Situation
According to the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS), there are currently 369 fires burning across the province, including 14 wildfires of note. A wildfire of note means it is highly visible or poses a threat to communities and residents.
One of the most devastating fires is the McDougall Creek wildfire, which grew from 64 hectares to 6,800 hectares (68 square kilometres) in just 24 hours. The fire has destroyed a significant number of properties in the Trader Cove area and along Bear Lake Road north of West Kelowna. Lake Okanagan Resort was one of the properties consumed in the fire.
The extreme conditions in the area are not expected to let up over the next 36 hours, and fires across the province may see significant growth, provincial officials say. The BCWS has predicted that this weekend would be the most challenging days of the provincial fire season, due to gusting winds and dry lightning.
The province has deployed more than 3,000 firefighters and support staff, as well as hundreds of aircraft and heavy equipment, to combat the wildfires. It has also requested additional resources from other provinces and countries.
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