RCMP and emergency officials are pleading with people ordered evacuated from rural areas to leave immediately and not risk having their exit route cut off by fast-moving fires.
Rob Schweitzer, director of fire centre operations for B.C. Wildfire Service, said Tuesday there have been at least three rescues of evacuation holdouts so far this season, with a helicopter used in one or more cases where people refused orders to leave.
“I am aware of at least three situations where we had to divert our resources, either on the ground or in the air, to assist with evacuating people who got caught behind the fire line, and their evacuation route or their escape route was cut off,” Schweitzer said July 27. “There are many people who have lived on the land in these rural areas and feel a real need to stay back and defend their properties. Even our seasoned firefighters are seeing behaviour and conditions that we’ve never seen in this generation.”
Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet of the B.C. RCMP also urged people to follow instructions from police when they are called on to enforce local government evacuation orders.
“Our members are continuing to patrol those areas that are under evacuation order, and today we haven’t received any complaints,” Shoihet said. “If you have concerns about your property, please reach out to your RCMP jurisdiction, and we will do what we can to work with the regional district and take a look at any concerns you may have.”
B.C. now has 21 evacuee reception centres and nearly 5,000 people registered at emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca, said Pader Brach, executive director of regional operations for Emergency Management B.C. As of Tuesday there are 61 evacuation orders covering more than 3,700 properties and 81 alerts affecting more than 18,000 properties province-wide.
Firefighters from Mexico have been assigned to fire duty at Osoyoos, and as of Wednesday, the first 90-person crew from the Canadian Armed Forces will be on the front lines at the Thomas Creek fire near Skaha Lake in the Okanagan, Schweitzer said.