The Beacher Ranch at the corner of Highway 20 and Farwell Canyon last night. Raylene and Bryan Poffenroth’s home has been refuge for Riske Creek neighbours who have been fighting to save their homes since July 7. Crews were pulled off the fires again yesterday leaving Riske Creek residents hoping the fire won’t jump the guards they have made. (Bailey Fuller photo)

Wildfires displace more than 37,000 evacuees

B.C. has spent over $80 million on wildfires already

There are more than 37,000 wildfire evacuees in B.C. as of late Sunday morning, according to transportation minister Todd Stone.

“Today we have just about 2,900 people on the fires,” said forestry minister John Rustad. The province has 24 helicopters up in the air but strong winds are affecting air operations.

“Unfortunately yesterday we did lose a helicopter in a crash.”

The accident, which occurred in the Chilcotin area, has left the pilot in stable condition, said chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek.

The EC-130 helicopter was operated by JB Air Inc. The Transportation Safety Board has been contacted but will not be investigating further.

Since April 1, there have been 641 fires burning 131,000 hectares across B.C., said Skrepnek. There were 162 fires burning on Saturday and 16 of those are interface fires with evacuation orders or alerts associated with them.

Skrepnek added that the weather is forecasted to remain hot, dry and windy.

“It would take an unseasonably significant rain event to really change the situation now,” he said.

The most rapidly growing fires were around Williams Lake and the Ashcroft Reserve fires. The Ashcroft Reserve fire is currently the biggest wildfire in B.C. at 42,300 hectares.

RELATED: Clinton still on evacuation alert as crews work to contain fire

The fire is largely growing along the highway, said Skrepnek, especially between Clinton and Cache Creek.

“Violent fire behaviour” has caused the BC Wildfire Service to pull back some of their crews near Williams Lake. The White Lake fire, which has jumped to the eastern side of the Fraser River, is the biggest threat to the city itself.

VIDEO: Thousands evacuate Williams Lake by school bus

Emergency Management BC deputy minister Robert Turner said that 80 per cent of those who have registered for aid have received it, for a total of 5471 payments.

Turner said that Kamloops authorities are doing their best to handle the influx of refugees.

“We have been working to open up other emergency reception centres,” said Stone. “No evacuee will be turned away.”

WATCH: Todd Stone speaks about the wildfire situation in Kamloops:

RELATED: Wildfire evacuees asked not to renew ESS early

Stone did ask evacuees who may have family elsewhere, especially in the Lower Mainland, to see if they can stay with them instead. Most evacuees are not staying in group lodging, Stone added, but are staying with friends and family or have found accommodations with local families.

According to Turner, this isn’t B.C.’s worst evacuation ever.

“The 2003 fire season we saw 50,000 evacuees in B.C.,” said Turner. “The difference this time is the geographic scope and that it’s early in the fire season.”

There are evacuation centres set up in Kamloops, Prince George, Surrey and Chilliwack.

VIDEO: Chilliwack prepares for Williams Lake fire evacuees

“They are set up as a contingency,” said Turner, noting that any future waves of evacuees could cause more Lower Mainland evacuees to be set up.”

Just Posted

Armada boys drop first game of AAA North Island basketball championships

Alberni faces No. 1 seed Mark Isfeld in Saturday, Feb. 17 morning game

Alberni Armada senior girls play for Island bronze

Girls drop game to SMU, still have a shot at provincial basketball berth

Armada senior girls win first contest at AA Island championships

Hoops team faces SMU in game this evening at Mark Isfeld in Courtenay

Pension delays unacceptable, Courtenay-Alberni MP says

Some retiring vets, RCMP wait ‘months, years’

Valentine’s Day a busy one for Alberni RCMP

Cops deal with 39 calls in one shift, including numerous thefts from vehicles

North Island College opens its doors to Alberni, west coast students

More than 200 Grade 11 students check out programs offered at Alberni campus

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Canucks came out hot, beat Bruins 6-1

Loui Eriksson scores twice, catapulting Vancouver to a lopsided victory over Boston

B.C. man brings dog to court as ‘best witness’

Man is defending himself on charges of uttering threats, possessing weapon for dangerous purposes

Vancouver Island job market ever-evolving

Various sectors driving employment in region will be represented at Black Press career fair in Comox Feb. 8

Vancouver artist’s cartoon of Florida school shooting resonates

Cartoon shows football coach, one of the victims, meeting others killed in school shootings

Trudeau family arrives in India for state visit

Seven-day visit includes meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Military seeks DNA experts to help ID missing war dead

Federal program recovers, identifies and arranges burials for Canada’s nearly 28,000 missing war dead

B.C. files new legal action against TransMountain pipeline

Province tries to uphold City of Burnaby bylaws, provoking Alberta

Most Read