VICTORIA, British Columbia – British Columbia is extending a state of emergency for two more weeks as wildfires sweeping across the province’s interior show no sign of slowing.
Premier John Horgan said Wednesday that his government’s first priority is to support the more than 45,000 people displaced by the fires, which have so far torched more than 1,235 square miles of land.
The state of emergency was set to expire Friday, and Horgan said he regrets having to extend it.
“This is unprecedented,” he said. “Traditionally, when an emergency is declared, people are usually back in their homes within the two-week period. That may not be the case for many individuals.”
Some people are still out of their homes because of flooding earlier this year, he said.
Calmer winds have allowed firefighters to build guards around scores of wildfires currently threatening communities in central and southern British Columbia, said chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek. He said the number of active fires is decreasing.
The wildfire service said Wednesday that 155 fires are currently burning and 15 of those are threatening communities.
Fire information officer Navi Saini said a person was injured while driving in an evacuated area west of Williams Lake.
She said the person inside the vehicle had been in the area in an attempt to fight the fire.
Officials said Wednesday that a fire that destroyed eight homes north of Kelowna is 100 percent contained and residents of 58 properties in Lake Country can immediately return home, although an evacuation alert remains in place.
A cause of that fire is still under investigation.
Residents of Cache Creek, which has a population of about 1,000, returned home Tuesday following a lengthy evacuation and Al Richmond, chairman of the Cariboo Regional District, said officials are coordinating re-entry plans for 100 Mile House and Williams Lake.
“We’re in the middle of summer, so hot spots are going to exist and it’s likely that those people when they come home could still be, particularly in the rural areas, on a state of alert for some time,” Richmond said.
An air quality advisory that had been in effect for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District was ended on Wednesday, after stronger winds improved the situation.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.