North America Wildfire Season: 2017

A massive wildfire raging south of the US border in Washington State crossed into Canada overnight Wednesday, according to Global News.

The BC Wildfire Service said the Diamond Creek fire is burning 70 kilometres west of Osoyoos, BC, within the vicinity of Border Lake.


BC Parks Wednesday shut down Cathedral Provincial Park southwest of Keremeos, BC, due to safety concerns as the Diamond Creek wild re expanded rapidly into a blaze with rank four and five fire behaviour on Wednesday.

Rank four and five fire behaviour describes a fast-moving blaze that can move through forest like a storm. That blaze has now scorched more than 1,700 hectares of BC forest directly south of Princeton and is currently burning 17 km east of the Highway 3 community of Eastgate, BC.

Although the 1,750-square-kilometre re in the Thompson-Nicola region is now 50 per cent contained, fire information officer Ryan Turcot said Wednesday unstable weather conditions bringing gusty winds has caused the blaze to spread.

A Cariboo Regional District evacuation order for an area south of Hwy. 24, including properties around Watch Lake, Horse Lake and Little Green Lake, BC, was expanded as a result of the blaze.

An urgent tactical evacuation was undertaken after volatile winds whipped up the flames. Many residents say the northern tip of the re is edging closer and closer to homes.

The re burning northwest of Kamloops now covers more than 175,000 hectares and approximately 400 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is 50 per cent contained.

There are currently 145 wild res burning in BC, including 17 new res that started Tuesday. Since April 1, there have been 1,154 res that have burned an estimated 10,650 square kilometres, said the Vancouver Sun Thursday.

The cost of firefighting to date for the BC Wildfire Service alone is $419.7 million. The budget that was set for firefighting in February was $63 million, which is consistent with previous years. Overruns are paid for out of contingencies.

This year’s is already the most expensive wildfire season in recent history.
According to the Canadian Red Cross, 25,000 house- holds have registered for emergency assistance and more than $20 million has been distributed from the $100 million the province provided to the Red Cross for re assistance this season.

On Tuesday Williams Lake council endorsed Nelson’s motion to ask the provincial and federal governments to establish a minimum, $1-billion “Rural Fire Recovery Fund” to help communities across BC with economic recovery.

A lighting strike on the afternoon of July 7 sparked a fire that roared toward the Williams Lake Indian Band and forced its evacuation within three hours, said the Vancouver Sun Wednesday. Almost 30 people stayed to fight the fire, along with a group of workers from a nearby highway-improvement project, until wild re crews arrived a couple of days later. The band members worked alongside them until the City of Williams Lake was evacuated July 15.

Band administrator Marg Shelley was shocked to find that many of the numbers listed were unavailable — including the one for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, which the department didn’t know was out of service — or the lines were busy.

Band Chief Ann Louie credits those early efforts with preventing more severe damage. In the end, one home and nine outbuildings, including sheds, shops and sweat houses, were lost.

The first two weeks of the disaster were the most difficult, because Louie said there was a lack of co-ordination between the agencies involved, including the city, band, wild re service and regional district. She said the band administration was left out of a lot of conversations.

The band is assessing the economic impact, which is huge — in the tens of millions of dollars — because of the timber licences it holds in the area. A recent incremental treaty agreement awarded the band 1,200 hectares to log, which Louie said would have been worth $12 million alone.

Scott Nelson, longtime Williams Lake councillor and former mayor, said the economic effect on the city, from cattle ranching and forestry to tourism and small business, is significant.

The fires that burned around Williams Lake didn’t make it into the city, but they came within less than four kilometres of the town, forcing its evacuation for 12 days. The city itself didn’t suffer any structural losses from the wild re, but, in the surrounding areas, about 150 buildings were destroyed.

British Columbia’s tourism industry is taking a hit with businesses reporting rising cancellations and decreased traffic over fears of wildfires.
Maya Lange with Destinations BC told the Toronto Star Thursday, the province’s tourism planning and marketing corporation, said Wednesday preliminary results from a survey of businesses in the Kootenay-Rockies region found that 32 per cent are anticipating losses due to perceptions of the fires.

She said one business in the region alone reported it has lost $100,000 due to cancellations in July.
The Thompson-Okanagan region has been hardest hit by wild res and Lange said 47 per cent of businesses in the area are reporting some sort of interruption this summer, such as cancellations or road closures.