Collectively, in BC, we are on edge, as we learn today of greatly expanded evacuation orders and several thousand more people on evacuation alert following aggressive fire behaviour on a number of fires into the night yesterday.
Two fires are burning in the vicinity of Lillooet and we have communities under evacuation alert and order at this time. BC is in the grips of one of its worst wildfire seasons on record. As of today, the BC Wildfire Service is reporting 1,415 wildfires this year, with 136 in the last week, and 27 new fires in the last two days. Many of the fires are listed as Out of Control, while 31 are Fires of Note – wildfires that are highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety.
The fire danger class rating for much of the SLRD is now at extreme, with many areas suffering from drought-like conditions and extreme heat over sustained periods of time. A temporary reprieve of cooler weather is forecast to be followed by a return to hotter temperatures by mid-next week.
We are actively coordinating with community representatives, our member municipal colleagues, First Nations and all relevant agencies to plan and prepare, and we will keep our residents informed. We will continue to do absolutely everything we can to support you, but we also need your help – plan ahead, be prepared and stay safe.
One of the challenges affecting the entire province is a lack of commercial accommodation space for evacuees due to existing evacuations, and normal demand for this time of year outside of the immediately at-risk areas. If you were evacuated, where would you go? Where would your pets go? We’re urging residents, as part of your emergency preparedness planning, to think about who in your network of family and friends may be able temporarily host you and your pets if you were affected by an evacuation order. As we have seen in BC already this year, when the time comes to evacuate there may be little or no notice, so now is the time to plan ahead.
Remember: An Evacuation Alert means prepare to leave, and an Evacuation Order means gather your pets and people and leave immediately.
Leaving your home behind is one of the hardest things to do, but wildfire is unpredictable and conditions can change very quickly as residents affected by the White Rock Lake wildfire experienced last night. We issue Alerts and Orders based on the best advice from the BC Wildfire Service, and evacuating quickly safeguards you, the loved ones with you, and the wider community, because whether you stay or go, your neighbours may follow your lead. We are also focussed on lifting Orders as soon as it is safe so that people can go home. We keep hearing that this is our new normal, so this is a reality we may all have to face more than once.
As we continue through this fire season, I extend our heartfelt gratitude from the whole SLRD team to all those who are doing their utmost to fight these fires and support those affected by them, on the frontlines and behind the scenes – we are grateful to you.
Chair, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District