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'No relief in sight': Strong winds fanning flames of large wildfires in southern B.C.

There are now 50 evacuation orders across the province, including six new ones in the past day.
A wildfire near the community of Renata in sourthern B.C.

Significant wind across much of B.C.'s Interior in recent days has caused rapid growth on many of the province's largest wildfires.

There are currently 272 active fires burning across B.C., which include 39 of the more significant “fires of note.”

“Over the last few days, we've had some significant weather come into the province bringing strong winds throughout the later parts of the days,” said Ian Meier, executive director of the BC Wildfire Service.

“We have seen some significant growth on most of our fires of note, and it has also created very smoky conditions on a lot of those fires as well, so getting in and being able to assess the true nature of that growth is what we're doing right now.

“We continue to have extremely dry conditions for the southern half of the province and we see no relief in sight.”

Meier noted the northern half of the province has seen cooler temperatures and some precipitation in recent days, which has allowed them to move some resources south.

As of Thursday, there are 3,193 personnel working to fight these fires, which includes more than 1,100 contractors and 178 aircraft.

Another 112 Quebec firefighters are coming to B.C. Friday, followed by another 100 Mexican firefighters on Sunday. About 250 Canadian Armed Forces personnel are also coming to help fight fires on the front lines in B.C., and they're staging in Vernon.

While Premier John Horgan noted Wednesday B.C. has had a tough time securing Australian and New Zealand firefighters due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Meier said they're “making progress” with Australia, and hope to have secured some firefighters from there in the coming days.

There are now 50 evacuation orders across the province, including six new ones in the past day, which have impacted more than 4,300 properties. An additional 18,000 properties are under an evacuation alert.

Dawn Roberts, spokesperson for the BC RCMP, said they've brought in additional RCMP resources into the southern Interior to patrol evacuated areas and staff roadblocks. But so far, police have not encountered any looting in evacuated zones.

“We've actually had no reports or come across any examples of any kind of property theft or issues with regards to theft in any of the areas that have been subject to evacuation orders or alerts at this time,” Roberts said. “We're very mindful of it. We're doing 24/7 patrols with regards to those areas.

“We know how important it is for people to be able to leave their property ... and we are remaining in those areas and we'll continue to ensure that everything is safe and secure when you're not there.”

The next provincewide wildfire briefing is expected to be held next Tuesday.