‘Smoke was billowing in behind us’: B.C. wildfire evacuees arriving in Kamloops

‘Smoke was billowing in behind us’: B.C. wildfire evacuees arriving in Kamloops

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Exhausted Williams Lake, B.C., residents are arriving in Kamloops after wildfires caused an evacuation order forcing them to navigate traffic-choked highways for hours.

About 24,000 people were affected by Saturday evening’s evacuation order. Officials have said they believe about 60 per cent of residents have left so far.

Ruth Downes, carrying a single suitcase as she lined up for assistance at the Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s evacuation centre in Kamloops Sunday morning, says she rode on a school bus all night after mustering with her neighbours.

“The roads were packed, but everyone has been very helpful,” she said. “Everyone in the city was leaving. We moved very slowly but carefully.”

Downes said she couldn’t see any flames and didn’t believe the city was in jeopardy from a wildfire that has been burning to the city’s west for days, but she said the smoke in the air was unbearable.

“As we left, the smoke was billowing in behind us — yikes! It was a little intimidating,” she said, adding that while she and her neighbours are tired, morale is high.

29,000 people covered by order

Some 29,000 people overall are covered by evacuation orders in the Cariboo region. Regional district chair Al Richmond says despite the number of people, there were no major incidents on the evacuation route.

He estimates the journey to Kamloops, which normally takes about two hours, could have taken nine for some people as between 7,000 and 8,000 left town last night.

“The convoy was moving slowly, but the key is they were moving safely,” Richmond said. “There’s no immediate danger, as far as we know, to the City of Williams Lake. Our main concern was getting people out safely last night before other access to the south got cut off.”

He says officials and police are looking for people still in town, and the RCMP can compel people to leave or even arrest them.

He says anyone in need of emergency information can check out the CRD’s emergency information Facebook page or call 1-800-863-6582.

Winds ‘a big problem’

The B.C. Wildfire Service estimates at least 9,400 hectares of forest are burning in the Williams Lake area.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe says a gusty cold front rolled through B.C.’s active fires Saturday night, creating strong winds.

The front stalled in the Central Interior, she said, and winds reached up to 60 km/h.

“The silver lining? Significantly cooler today, a good 10 degrees cooler for most of the forest fires,” she said. “That should help, but the winds are a big problem for firefighters today.”

While Sunday is predicted to be more humid, the forecast also calls for thunderstorms — and the possibility of dry lightning.

“We could be looking at new fire starts this afternoon,” Wagstaffe said.

NEWS

via CBC | Top Stories News http://ift.tt/1iYvrpl

July 16, 2017 at 12:02PM

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