Most evacuees return home as fire threat eases in parts of British Columbia
Sunday, July 20, 2014, 7:12 PM -
About 2,400 of the 2,500 residents displaced by a wildfire near West Kelowna, B.C. were allowed to return home Sunday, but were cautioned to be ready to leave at a moments notice.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Kelly Kay of the Central Okanagan Regional District Emergency Operations Centre says officials will be discussing the possibility of allowing the rest of the evacuees back in their homes.
"We will be evaluating that situation,'' she said. "For those who do remain on evacuation order, they will have to check back in at the evacuation reception centres to get the additional food and accommodation vouchers.''
Authorities say cooler weather and higher humidity has allowed firefighters to contain 50 per cent of the blaze, up from about 30 per cent on Saturday.
But the weather has been a hindrance for firefighters battling another blaze north of Lytton, B.C. Although smaller, at around 150 hectares, firefighters say lower temperatures have helped, but high winds have offset some of that advantage.
Still, the area of the province considered to be at high or extreme wildfire risk is much narrower, mostly concentrated in the southern interior.
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At the same time, although progress is being made against some fires, scattered evacuation orders or alerts are still in effect, and the fires burning in the north of the province are enormous, blackening tens of thousands of hectares of land.
The smoke from all those fires prompted Environment Canada to issue air quality advisories for much of the B.C. interior.
"Smoke concentrations in the aforementioned regions will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change," the agency says. "The change in weather will provide some relief from high smoke levels, however fires are still active and periods of smoke may still affect communities."
Next door in Alberta, meanwhile, a fire burning near the B.C.-Alberta border in the Grand Prairie has scorched tens of thousands of acres in both provinces. It's also prompted an evacuation order for part of the Municipal District of Greenview No. 16, south of Grand Prairie.
At the moment, it is the only wildfire-related evacuation alert in the province.
With files from The Canadian Press