KAMLOOPS, B.C. — A lightning-caused fire in southern British Columbia that the BC Wildfire Service says went undetected because it was initially obscured by smoke has now charred 69 square kilometres and threatens a popular backcountry lodge.
Erick Thompson, information officer with the regional district’s emergency operations centre, said 44 people, including campers and staff, were required to leave.
“This is the second time this month an evacuation order has been issued for Cathedral Lakes Lodge,” the regional district said in a news release, adding the order was issued because of “immediate danger to life safety.”
A blaze identified as the Cool Creek fire had already chewed through one square kilometre of timber before it was pinpointed Aug. 15, the Wildfire Service said on its website.
Crews were not immediately tasked to fight the fire because it was remote, burning in steep, unreachable terrain and was not immediately threatening properties or infrastructure, it said. Flames kicked up last Thursday but it was several days before visibility improved enough that a plane could assess the situation and crews were assigned.
Wildfire officials hoped cooler temperatures and low winds would mean moderate activity on the fire over the weekend but an area closure was imposed covering Cathedral Provincial Park and the lodge.
The Cathedral Lakes Lodge was evacuated Aug. 1 when a separate blaze threatened the only road leading to the facility.
The Wildfire Service said seven new fires were sparked Thursday and 555 fires were burning Friday in all areas of the province.
Sixty of those blazes were considered fires of note, meaning they either posed a threat to people and property or were highly visible. Most were in the southeast part of B.C.
Air quality advisories remained for most of the province due to high levels of ultra-fine grit tossed up by the fires.
Environment Canada was offering some hope to residents of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley after nearly a week of stagnant, smoke-filled air, but its forecast was not as positive for people closer to the wildfires burning in the Interior region.
The weather office said those fine particulates should continue to decline across the Lower Mainland and a smog advisory has been dropped. Cooler temperatures and fresh Pacific air blowing toward the coast are credited for the reprieve, but forecasters said winds over the Interior will pin the smoke there and communities downwind of wildfires will stay shrouded for the foreseeable future.
Winds also complicated the battle against many fires, including two with a combined area of more than 1,000 square kilometres southwest of Burns Lake and along the south shore of Francois Lake.
Officials said no new homes have been lost since the blaze destroyed three in Lower Post near the Yukon boundary and a trace amount of rain had fallen.
Crews were working to keep flames away from the Alaska Highway.
(The Canadian Press, CKRW)
The Canadian Press
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