A new evacuation order has been issued as the largest wildfire in British Columbia continues to challenge efforts to bring it under control.
The BC Wildfire Service said the blaze north of Kamloops now covers 402 square kilometres and flames on one of its flanks surged toward control lines Monday.
Information officer Taylor Colman with the wildfire service said hot and dry weather conditions are causing concern as firefighters battle the flames.
“So, I think there is potential for it to keep growing,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
The service has 125 firefighters, 10 helicopters and 50 pieces of heavy equipment fighting the fire.
Colman said the area has brush, deciduous trees and grasses, which make for “flashy fuel.”
“That means that it doesn’t take much to ignite and spread.”
Premier John Horgan said he has been talking to the prime minister about bringing in the Armed Forces to help clear debris from forest floors to reduce the incidence of fires, which is one of the recommendations following the 2003 wildfires.
It would be a “useful national undertaking,” he said at a news conference on a separate announcement Tuesday.
“Clearing out the fuel, that’s the biggest challenge in interface communities,” Horgan said, of communities threatened by wildfires.
“There’s too much fuel on the forest floor and we need to give value to that, and remove it in a way that will allow other industries to emerge.”
An evacuation order for nine more properties near Savona has been issued, adding to the 170 addresses already ordered out by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and the Skeetchestn Indian Band.
In the south Okanagan, the wildfire sparked Sunday east of Skaha Lake now covers nine square kilometres, but firefighters say it is burning away from the community of Okanagan Falls, allowing local authorities to lift evacuation orders.
Residents of 77 affected properties have been allowed to return home, but must be ready to leave on short notice as evacuation alerts remain in place for nearly 700 properties along the southeast corner of Skaha Lake, south of Penticton.
More than 300 wildfires are currently burning across the province, and Environment Canada says heat warnings or special weather statements will remain until at least Wednesday, with expected temperatures in the mid- to high 30s for a large, already parched area of central and southern B.C.
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