Tourists in North Okanagan told ‘leave now’ due to wildfires

Weekend winds may fan flames  of wildfires, new evacuation alerts for North Okanagan

Wind this weekend could quickly spread wildfires in the Interior. | BC Wildfire Service

British Columbians who planned to visit the Central Okanagan this weekend are being asked to stay away, due to the dual hazards of wildfires and COVID-19 outbreak, and several communities in the North Okanagan are now under evacuation alerts.

Tourists are also asked to stay away from the following communities in the North Okanagan: Armstrong, Enderby, Spallumcheen, the Okanagan Indian Band, and other parts of the Regional District North Okanagan.

“If you are thinking of visiting there, don’t,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of Public Safety. “If you are a tourist in that area…leave now.”

Should those communities need to evacuate, hotels may be needed to help house those who have nowhere else to stay.

Heat and wind this weekend could fan the flames of wildfires already burning in B.C.’s Interior. Residents of the communities listed above have been put on evacuation alerts.

A map is available that shows areas that are under evacuation alerts and travel advisories.

“While we are acting out of an abundance of caution, the situation is very serious and could very well get worse quickly,” Farnworth said

“If you were planning to travel to this area, now is not the time to do so.”

Katrine Conroy, minister of Forests, implored residents under evacuation alerts to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, should evacuations be required, and not stay behind to try to protect their properties and farms.

“If you make that choice, you are simply putting your life and you family’s lives and the lives of firefighters at risk,” Conroy said. “We can’t ask them to put their lives on the line in the face of an out-of-control fire in order to rescue people who won’t leave their homes.”

“The fire activity we’ve seen this summer, the fire conditions, have been extreme,” Farnworth said.

And with high winds expected to arrive Saturday and last through Sunday and possibly into early next week, there is a danger that smaller fires could quickly grow.

Wildfires have already burned 656,445 hectares in B.C. and there are currently 268 fires, the biggest being the White Rock Lake fire.

There are 3,725 firefighters and more than 200 planes and helicopters currently battling the blazes in B.C.

nbennett@biv.com

@nbennett_biv