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The latest news on the wildfires ravaging British Columbia

A state of emergency remains in place today across British Columbia as threatening wildfires force thousands of residents to evacuate from homes in the Okanagan in the southern Interior and elsewhere in the province.

Here are the latest developments on the B.C. wildfires (all times are PT):

3 p.m.

In a joint statement, Mounties, First Nations and the City of Penticton are asking people to refrain from any activity that could spark a fire.

The bulletin says a small spark with favourable conditions can grow quickly in the abundant natural areas in the province.

The groups say they want to remind the public there is a ban on campfires throughout the entire region and there are no exceptions.

3:15 p.m.

City of Penticton has activated its emergency operations centre.

The city says staff will be monitoring the air quality and ways to help residents and evacuees deal with the challenges.

It says close to 350 people have received assistance so far at a reception centre set up for evacuees at Princess Margaret Secondary School.

3:00 p.m.

The province is encouraging evacuees to register for emergency support services so they can access help with various needs such as accommodation, food, clothing and other incidentals.

A statement from the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness says evacuees who stay with family or friends may still be eligible to receive vouchers to assist with costs associated with billeting after they register.

It says support services in Alberta are extremely limited due to incoming evacuees from the Northwest Territories and British Columbian evacuees looking for support are discouraged from travelling to Alberta, unless they have someone to stay with.

2:45 p.m.

An evacuation order that includes properties in the UBC Okanagan district has been downgraded to an alert.

Orders for properties near Quail Ridge Boulevard, including the Quail Ridge Golf Club, have also been downgraded.

Officials with the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre say residents on evacuation alert should be ready to leave their properties at any time.

2:30 p.m.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen says its emergency centres do not have the capacity to accept or distribute donations or direct volunteers.

The district says instead of bringinmg donations to the centres, people can reach out to various non-profit organizations such as food banks, the Salvation Army or animal rescue groups.

1:07 p.m.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District says an air quality advisory remains in effect due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter, mostly due to smoke from wildfires burning across B.C.

Affected areas include northwest, southwest, northeast and southeast Metro Vancouver, as well as central and eastern regions of the Fraser Valley.

The advisory began Friday, and the district says it will remain in effect until further notice.

It suggests people limit physical activity until conditions improve.

12:02 p.m.

Health authorities in B.C. have announced they are relocating residents from the Vineyards Residence assisted living and long-term care home in Kelowna due to wildfires raging nearby.

Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and Interior Health authorities say the residents will be brought to George Pearson Centre and Villa Cathay in Vancouver.

This comes as the provincial government issued a warning to British Columbians about poor air quality due to wildfire smoke.

It says those with pre-existing health conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, heart disease or diabetes, are at greater risk of health effects from wildfire smoke.

10:55 a.m.

West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund says no additional structures have been lost in the city in the last 24 hours.

But, Lake Country fire chief Chief Darren Lee says evacuation orders and alerts will remain in place despite favourable weather conditions over the past day.

He says calmer winds allowed for “a lot of real success” on the fire lines.

Fire chief Ross Kotscherofski of the North Westside Fire Department says he is also “comfortable” with the evacuation alerts and orders that are in place in his region.

He says they don’t want to lift any orders or alerts yet in case there is more “aggressive fire behaviour.”

10:26 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government has received and approved British Columbia’s request for federal assistance.

He says in a post to social media that the government is deploying military assets.

Trudeau says it is also providing resources to help with evacuations, staging and other logistical tasks, and will continue to support the province as needed.

10:25 a.m.

Kelowna fire chief Travis Whiting says fires have subsided enough to allow crews to go into neighbourhoods and extinguish any flames along the perimeter of homes.

He says they will also be working to bolster defences in the anticipation of any upcoming changes in weather.

Whiting says officials plan to connect with people who have been affected by the fires and confirming which properties have been damaged.

He says crews are optimistic and in good spirit heading out as they have clear objectives for the next two days.

10:15 a.m.

West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund says the fire fight around Lake Okanagan has taken a turn as conditions have allowed for “extraordinary suppression.”

He says an army of 500 firefighters are currently engaged in the battle.

Brolund says up to 50 professionals from the national Canada Task Force 1 are being deployed in B.C., with the first wave of staff briefed this morning.

He says the team includes professionals from the Vancouver Fire Rescue Service, the Vancouver Police Department, engineers from the City of Vancouver, paramedics from the BC Ambulance Service, physicians and other technical experts.

Brolund says their role will include conducting an inventory of property lost, search operations and determine what needs to be done to keep neighbourhoods safe.

9:30 a.m.

The deputy vice-chancellor, UBC Okanagan says that, as of 8:40 a.m. today, the campus has not suffered any structural damage.

7:16 a.m.

Drive BC says Highway 1 between Haig Station Road and Main Street is closed in both directions for about 105 kilometres from Hope to Lytton, B.C., due to a nearby wildfire.

5:00 a.m.

In response to the wildfire conditions in the Okanagan region, the RCMP announced Saturday evening that it is increasing its officers to aid with evacuations and is adding more patrols to deter any potential criminal activities.

The RCMP is asking that members of the public exercise patience during evacuations, listen to emergency personnel and drive cautiously.

A spokesperson for the RCMP also strongly cautioned against the use of personal drones and anyone caught interfering with wildfire relief efforts can face fines of up to one-hundred thousand dollars.

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

The Canadian Press


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