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The latest on Canadian wildfires

The break that firefighters defending the capital of the Northwest Territories got at the start of the weekend due to rainy weather is expected to end today, while more than 30,000 people are under evacuation orders in the Kelowna and West Kelowna area.

Emergency resources

Find updates from our reporters below.

8:24 p.m. ET

Trudeau says it’s been a “ridiculously bad summer” for extreme weather

Speaking in Charlottetown on Sunday ahead of a cabinet retreat, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it has been a “ridiculously bad summer in terms of extreme weather events.”

Mr. Trudeau said Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan will be participating virtually and staying in his home province of British Columbia to continue leading the federal response and to co-ordinate with the province on the situation in Kelowna, the Central Okanagan and places further threatened by fires.

The Prime Minister said Canadians have stepped up and have shown who they are as people, “welcoming friends, neighbours, strangers into their homes, into their communities.”

“This is what we do as Canadians,” he said. “We’re there for each other.”

Kristy Kirkup

  • Locals watch as a helicopter gathers water at Shannon Lake to battle wildfires in West Kelowna on Aug. 19.PAIGE TAYLOR WHITE/AFP/Getty Images

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7:28 p.m. ET

UBC Okanagan evacuation order downgraded to alert, province encourages evacuees to register for aid

An evacuation order that includes properties in the UBC Okanagan district has been downgraded to an alert.

Orders for properties near Quail Ridge Boulevard, including the Quail Ridge Golf Club, have also been downgraded.

Officials with the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre say residents on evacuation alert should be ready to leave their properties at any time.

British Columbia is encouraging those still on evacuation order to register for emergency support services so they can access help with various needs such as accommodation, food, clothing and other incidentals.

A statement from the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness says evacuees who stay with family or friends may still be eligible to receive vouchers to assist with costs associated with billeting after they register.

It says support services in Alberta are extremely limited due to incoming evacuees from the Northwest Territories and British Columbian evacuees looking for support are discouraged from travelling to Alberta, unless they have someone to stay with.

– The Canadian Press

7:19 p.m. ET

Military deploys 400 to NWT, Conservative Party postpones events

There are about 400 Canadian Armed Forces members who have been deployed into the Northwest Territories, Defence Minister Bill Blair told CBC Radio on Sunday.

Mr. Blair also said a 30-person reconnaissance team was sent in over the weekend to work with emergency management in British Columbia. He added in a post on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, that another company of Canadian Armed Forces soldiers have been deployed to Hay River.

The situation in B.C. does not require what was needed in the Northwest Territories but work is ongoing to ensure appropriate equipment and supports are provided, he said.

On Saturday, the federal government approved an additional request for assistance from B.C.’s provincial government.

“I have every assurance from the Chief of Defence that they will respond with all of the resources that they to bring to bear,” Mr. Blair said.

This weekend, the Conservative Party announced it would postpone events in B.C. and the Yukon due to the severe wildfires.

A note sent out to party supporters in the Yukon said it was with regret that the Conservatives would reschedule a rally with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre on Thursday. The Conservative Leader has been campaigning under a slogan to “Axe the Tax” in reference to the Liberal carbon pricing plan.

The director of media relations, Sebastian Skamski, also said that the party had made a decision to postpone its upcoming tour of the province of B.C. and that it wants to support British Columbians facing wildfires.

Kristy Kirkup

5:48 p.m. ET

Trans Mountain says wildfires pose no risk to pipeline operations

Canadian oil pipeline system operator Trans Mountain said on Sunday that the British Columbia wildfires posed no risk to its pipeline operations or its expansion project.

“Trans Mountain is actively monitoring the wildfire situation and we are in constant communication with local and provincial agencies, including Indigenous communities,” Trans Mountain said in a statement.

Trans Mountain said that they maintain several wildfire equipment trailers and caches of equipment that allows for the safe construction and operation of the pipeline adding that underground pipelines are buried a few feet below the surface and are protected from the fire by the soil and constant movement of liquid moving through the pipelines.

– Reuters

3:37 p.m. ET

West Kelowna sees no additional structure losses, keeps evacuation orders

West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund says no additional structures have been lost in the city in the last 24 hours.

But, Lake Country fire chief Chief Darren Lee says evacuation orders and alerts will remain in place despite favourable weather conditions over the past day.

Fire chief Ross Kotscherofski of the North Westside Fire Department says he is also “comfortable” with the evacuation alerts and orders that are in place in his region. He says they don’t want to lift any orders or alerts yet in case there is more “aggressive fire behaviour.”

– The Canadian Press

2:05 p.m. ET

PM deploys federal resources, military to help with B.C. wildfires

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government has received and approved British Columbia’s request for federal assistance.

He says in a post to social media that the government is deploying military assets.

Trudeau says it is also providing resources to help with evacuations, staging and other logistical tasks, and will continue to support the province as needed.

1:47 p.m. ET

Okanagan fire chiefs optimistic as conditions, staffing ameliorate

West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund says the fire fight around Lake Okanagan has taken a turn as conditions have allowed for “extraordinary suppression.”

He says an army of 500 firefighters are currently engaged in the battle.

Brolund says up to 50 professionals from the national Canada Task Force 1 are being deployed in B.C., with the first wave of staff briefed this morning.

He says their role will include conducting an inventory of property lost, search operations and determine what needs to be done to keep neighbourhoods safe.

Kelowna fire chief Travis Whiting says fires have subsided enough to allow crews to go into neighbourhoods and extinguish any flames along the perimeter of homes.

He says they will also be working to bolster defences in the anticipation of any upcoming changes in weather.

Whiting says officials plan to connect with people who have been affected by the fires and confirming which properties have been damaged.

He says crews are optimistic and in good spirit heading out as they have clear objectives for the next two days.

The Canadian Press

1:10 p.m. ET

N.W.T. mayor says evacuations to last “weeks, not days”

The Mayor of Hay River, a small town across Great Slave Lake from Yellowknife, says it will be “weeks, not days” until residents can return home.

The community, home to about 3,500 people, was ordered to evacuate last Sunday after the Kakisa fire raced 30 kilometres toward the town in a few short hours, devastating the hamlet of Enterprise in its path.

Mayor Kandis Jameson said, in a statement Sunday morning, that the threat is far from over.

“It is very dangerous here, especially with the warm, dry weather and steady winds this week,” she said. “It is critical that people do not come back right now. There are no basic services, amenities or emergency support of any kind.”

She said crews have been working tirelessly to protect the town, K’atl’odeeche First Nation, West Point First Nation and Hay River Metis Government Council, often rushing to stifle flare ups. Fire personnel must be able to access parts of the community at any time, she added, which is why a roadblock into Hay River has been set up at Enterprise.

“Re-entry will be weeks, not days, with assessments done weekly,” said Ms. Jameson.

“Please stay away from the community.”

Alanna Smith

12:45 p.m. ET

Cooler, wet weather that helped firefighters in NWT expected to end today

Firefighters trying to keep wildfires at bay from the city of Yellowknife were taking stock of the situation Sunday morning after cooler, damp weather gave them a break Saturday.

“What we’re looking at doing is scanning a section of the fire and seeing what areas might be appropriate for direct attack,” said fire information officer Mike Westwick. “(We’ll be) putting boots on the ground right in front of the fire and suppressing sections of it.”

Crews will use infrared sensors to figure out where the fire is vulnerable, although Westwick said the fire line is so long that the teams will focus on the most critical areas.

Fires remained about 15 kilometres from the deserted, smoky city, which is almost completely evacuated. Only a couple thousand of the northern capital’s 20,000 people remain and about half of them are emergency workers.

About four millimetres of rainfall Saturday gave firefighters a chance to build control lines on Yellowknife’s western edge, Westwick said.

Fuel breaks have been dug, and sprinkler and water systems installed.

“That work is substantially complete, which is really good news,” said Westwick. “We’re making good progress.”

However, temperatures were expected to rise, humidity to fall and winds to strengthen on Sunday.

“We do expect by the afternoon that we’re going to see some drying and some fire activity again.”

Still, Westwick said the fire was not expected to reach Yellowknife either Sunday or Monday.

A special effort was also undertaken to ensure Yellowknife’s homeless population was safe.

“There was significant outreach to people experiencing homelessness,” Westwick said. “There was good success getting them set up with supports in Alberta.”

On Saturday, a black bear had to be scared away from the airport, near where helicopters were taking off. Westwick said there is a chance that the flames were forcing animals out of their regular habitat.

Meanwhile, the fires continued to menace other communities in the territory. Only eight kilometres separated Hay River from the nearest fire, although winds were expected to force those blazes back on themselves Sunday.

Fort Smith wasn’t to be so lucky. Although crews have been building fire breaks and sprinklers lines to protect the town, winds were expected to blow directly into the town.

“They’ve got some troubling winds coming their way,” Westwick said. “The fire’s going to be coming right at them.”

Environment and Climate Change Minister Shane Thompson said that over the last week, 68 per cent of the territory’s population have left due to fires.

No date has been set for anyone to return.

The Canadian Press

11:44 a.m. ET

Travel ban in parts of B.C. disrupting tourism as raging wildfires burn

The central Okanagan is facing weeks without tourism during its peak season after British Columbia’s premier imposed bans on travel to wildfire zones.

David Eby says the decision was made to ensure accommodation is available for crews and the 30,000 or more people who were forced from their homes across B.C.

The order, which was introduced Saturday under the provincial state of emergency, will be in place until Sept. 4 for hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, hostels, RV parks and campgrounds in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Kamloops, Oliver, Osoyoos, Penticton and Vernon.

The province says the travel ban does not impact other regions, but is asking people to avoid non-essential travel to the central Interior and southeast to keep roads clear for emergency-response operations and other potential evacuations.

In Kelowna, where nearby wildfires have forced the evacuation of thousands, watercraft rental businesses have closed their doors, leaving boats and jet skis sitting idle, bobbing on the water.

Realtor Raymun Khunkhun, who has lived in Kelowna for about three decades, says the ban has left streets usually teeming with visitors eerily bare.

“There’s not a lot of people walking around or anything, it’s almost like a ghost town now out here,” he said in an interview Saturday.

“These streets are usually packed, like it’s hard single-file walking when you’re on the sidewalks, and now it’s almost a little scary in a sense that it’s just empty.”

But, he said there’s not much that can be done now other than “pray for better days.”

“Hopefully this doesn’t turn into anything worse than it already is.”

The Canadian Press

11:42 a.m. ET

Another highway closure announced due to B.C. wildfires

Drive BC says Highway 1 between Haig Station Road and Main Street is closed in both directions for about 105 kilometres from Hope to Lytton, B.C., due to a nearby wildfire.

The Canadian Press

7:15 a.m. ET

Battle continues against Okanagan region wildfires

Video shot at night near West Kelowna on August 19 shows the scale of the wildfire burning across the landscape.

The fire fight on both shores of Lake Okanagan continues after the British Columbia government brought in travel restrictions to free up space for thousands of evacuees who have been forced out of their homes.

More than 30,000 people are under evacuation orders in the Kelowna and West Kelowna area, and while firefighters have said recent calmer and cooler conditions helped in the fight, they are expecting difficult days ahead.

About 200 firefighters, including representation for departments around the province, are battling the destructive McDougall Creek wildfire, which was last measured at 105 square kilometres.

On Saturday, the province brought in restrictions on travel for the purpose of staying in temporary accommodations like hotels and campgrounds in several communities in the Okanagan.

Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said those accommodations are no longer available for anything other than essential travel so the rooms can be available for firefighters and evacuees.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier David Eby discussed the wildfire situation Saturday, and Trudeau’s office says the prime minister promised to provide all necessary aid from the federal government.

The BC Wildfire Service lists more than 380 active wildfires burning in the province including 14 that are considered “of note” meaning they are highly visible or threatening public safety.

The Canadian Press

8:37 p.m. ET, Aug. 19

Vancouver issues air quality advisory and Trudeau promises aid to B.C.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District has issued an air quality advisory due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter from wildfire smoke.

It says the concentrations are expected to become elevated this evening and into tomorrow morning. It is expected to last until there is a change in the weather.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office also says he convened a meeting of the incident response group, made up of ministers and senior officials, on Saturday to discuss the importance of making additional resources available in B.C. and the Northwest Territories.

Trudeau also spoke with B.C. Premier David Eby about the wildfires in his province and promised to provide all necessary aid from the federal government.

– The Canadian Press

4:41 p.m. ET, Aug. 19

B.C. orders fire-zone travel bans as evacuations soar over 30,000

British Columbia imposed bans on travel to wildfire zones on Saturday after evacuee numbers doubled to 30,000 or more

Premier David Eby put evacuee numbers at 35,000, although Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said it was 30,000, with a further 36,000 on evacuation alert.

Evacuee numbers stood at 15,000 late Friday when Eby announced a provincewide state of emergency in response to the fires.

What’s the difference between an evacuation alert and an evacuation order in Canada?

Eby says the scale of the evacuations means the government is issuing an order to restrict travel to fire-affected areas to ensure accommodation is available for evacuees and emergency personnel.

Ma said the latest order, effective immediately until Sept. 4, restricted travel for anyone planning to stay in temporary accommodation in Kelowna, Kamloops, Oliver, Osoyoos, Penticton and Vernon.

Eby added that Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has also authorized emergency provisions to allow municipal RCMP resources to be deployed to evacuated areas and secure empty properties.

– The Canadian Press

A wildfire near Kelowna, B.C. has lead to evacuations and Premier David Eby declared a state of emergency Friday as hundreds more fires burn across the province.

The Globe and Mail

3:23 p.m. ET, Aug. 19

New water restrictions announced in West Kelowna

West Kelowna City is announcing a do not consume order for the Rose Valley water system and stage four water restrictions for the city as a whole.

This means that all outdoor use of water is now banned in West Kelowna. Agricultural users in the area are being encouraged to reduce consumption where they can, according to officials.

A number of homes in the Rose Valley neighbourhood burned yesterday. As a result, water is freely flowing from those structures, draining local reservoirs.

“We need to conserve what little water remains in those reservoirs for firefighting purposes,” West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said earlier today. “I need the water in those reservoirs. Please reduce your consumption.”

The RCMP also announced that multiple drones have been spotted in fire zones in Kelowna and West Kelowna.

“If a drone is in the area, you will ground a helicopter,” said Superintendent Kara Triance of the Kelowna detachment. “We need that airspace. It is illegal to fly a drone in an emergency where we are fighting fires. Please keep your drones out of the area so we can fight this fire.”

Nancy Macdonald

12:03 p.m. ET, Aug. 19

Red Cross launches donation appeal for B.C. fire relief

The Canadian Red Cross has launched an appeal to help support people affected by the wildfires threatening communities and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes.

Donations to the British Columbia Fires Appeal will be used for immediate and ongoing relief, recovery and resilience efforts and could also be used for preparedness and risk reduction for future provincial disasters.

Canadians wishing to make a donation can do so online or by calling 1-800-418-1111.

The Canadian Press

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