Campfire ban for most of B.C., state of emergency for Stikine as wildfires spike

Haida Gwaii only exception to ban as province sees unprecedented levels of drought

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British Columbia is imposing a campfire ban across the province, excepting only Haida Gwaii, as well as a state of emergency for the Stikine Region in the province's northwest corner.

"I think what's clear to me is the climate crisis is here," said B.C. Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Bowinn Ma during a media briefing Monday afternoon.

"We are seeing more climate events, major fires and droughts. This is an extremely challenging time for people and communities. It is immensely stressful."

The campfire ban goes into effect at 3 p.m. PT. Campfire bans were previously put in place for much of the province earlier this month.

BC wildfire - July 10 - BC wildfire service - twitter

(BC Wildfire Service/Twitter)

Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for B.C. Wildfire Service, said the situation this year has necessitated an "all hands on deck" approach.

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"We do not have the capacity right now to respond to fires that we can prevent, and those are the human-caused fires."

Tactical evacuation

The province enacted the state of emergency for the Stikine because the region is unincorporated, Ma said, prompting a need so the province could put the necessary resources in place in that area.

Emergency personnel had to undertake a tactical evacuation in the area because of the wildfire situation over the weekend, Ma added.

A state of emergency is not needed for the rest of B.C., Ma said, because the Wildfire Act gives the province the tools needed to co-ordinate provincial and international resources to combat wildfires.

davis-lake-wildfire (1)/BC Wildfire Service via CBC

The Davis Lake wildfire is one of 13 wildfires of note burning across British Columbia. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

Ma said there are currently about 156 people under evacuation order and 629 people under evacuation alert across the province.

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"We are anticipating continued extreme fire behaviour and all of us need to do our part to prevent the situation from becoming any worse, no matter where we are in the province," she said.

Ma said there are currently about 156 people under evacuation order and 629 people under evacuation alert across the province.

"We are anticipating continued extreme fire behaviour and all of us need to do our part to prevent the situation from becoming any worse, no matter where we are in the province," she said.

WATCH: Wildfires this year could put the brakes on stormy weather

Unprecedented drought

The minister also spoke at length about the severe state of drought currently throughout the province, saying it was unprecedented.

"Knowing there may be increasingly tight water restrictions to ensure there is enough water for essential purposes is also extremely difficult," Ma said.

Much of the province was already experiencing drought last winter, Ma said. When the ground froze that precipitation didn't get absorbed into the ground, which she says is part of what has worsened the wildfires this year.

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Half of the province's water basins are currently at Level 4 drought, she said, with Level 5 being the worst.

Many regions have already implemented water restrictions, Ma said, and the province is in discussions with others to implement more.

She said the primary areas of concern at the moment are the northeast, the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

Evacuation orders in central B.C.

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako in central B.C. near Smithers issued an evacuation order for all properties west of the Telkwa River, accessed off of Tatlow Road, including all local roads, as the Powers Creek wildfire rages nearby.

The out-of-control blaze covering 0.2 square kilometres (20 hectares) was discovered Friday evening, and is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

Everyone in the area is being told to gather pets and critical items such as medication, wallet, keys and turn off all gas and electrical appliances before leaving immediately.

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Evacuees should register at the reception centre at the Christian Reformed Church in Smithers.

18 properties evacuated

Earlier Friday, the Township of Spallumcheen in the southern B.C. interior opened an emergency operations centre after ordering 18 properties evacuated due to an out-of-control wildfire.

The evacuations come amid a spike in wildfire activity associated with lightning and parched conditions across much of the province's Interior.

Spallumcheen, with a population of about 5,300, says people living in the properties east of Round Lake Road should leave the area immediately.

The township says more than a dozen other properties on the west side of the road are on evacuation alert and should be prepared to leave with little notice.

The township says emergency crews are on scene, and tactical support from the B.C. Wildfire Service is on the way.

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It says people whose properties have been evacuated can visit an emergency support service centre at the Spallumcheen's municipal hall.

136 active fires in B.C.

Meanwhile, an evacuation alert has been issued by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako for all areas north of the Endako river accessed by Savory Road, due to the risk posed by the Tatin Lake wildfire, which is burning out of control.

Residents are being told to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

The wildfire service was reporting 136 active fires in B.C. on Friday afternoon, most of them concentrated in the province's northeast.

They include 36 that were sparked in the past day, including the Spallumcheen fire, that the wildfire service says was caused by lightning and was discovered at about 2 p.m. Friday.

The service says that of the fires burning Friday, 110 were caused by lightning, 19 by human activity and seven had unknown causes.

Thumbnail courtesy of BC Wildfire Service via CBC.

The story was written by Maryse Zeidler and published for CBC News. It contains files from The Canadian Press.