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B.C. wildfires: no new evacuations overnight as grim battle goes on

British Columbia’s desperate battle against hundreds of wildfires continues on multiple fronts Sunday, but no new evacuation orders have been added overnight to the thousands already in place across the province.

B.C. Premier David Eby said Saturday the situation was “grim” as he announced an emergency travel ban to fire zones to free up accommodation for 30,000 or more evacuees across the province, as well as fire crews.

The last new evacuation order was issued at 1:33 p.m. Saturday for residents of the tiny lakeside community of Sorrento on Highway 1, due to the Lower East Adams Lake fire complex which has caused extensive regional destruction in the Columbia Shuswap in the southern Interior.

In the central Okanagan to the south, ground zero for a massive fight against blazes on both sides of Lake Okanagan, no new orders have been issued since 9:18 p.m. Friday.

Hundreds of firefighters there are engaged against fires that have been looming over Kelowna and West Kelowna, causing significant destruction of homes.

Most of the province’s evacuees are from the central Okanagan.

Kelowna fire chief Travis Whiting said about 10,700 properties have been ordered to evacuate in the region, with a further 9,500 on evacuation alert.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District said firefighters have been “working tirelessly” in the battle against the Lower East Adams Lake fire complex, that has forced the evacuation of more than 3,000 properties.

District officials confirmed Saturday there were structural losses due to the explosive growth of the fire, which the BC Wildfire services said raced more than 20 kilometres in about half a day, and “there have been impacts to communities.”

John MacLean with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District said no lives have been lost.

Firefighting officials have said cooler and calmer conditions on Saturday helped crews battle the fires in the southern Interior, but they are expecting difficult days ahead as conditions warm up again Sunday.

The destructive McDougall Creek wildfire that is threatening West Kelowna, was last measured at 105 square kilometres.

B.C officials have restricted travel for the purpose of staying in temporary accommodations like hotels and campgrounds in several communities in the Okanagan.

Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma has 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 Eby discussed the wildfire situation Saturday, and Trudeau’s office said 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.

— With files from CHNL.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2023.

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