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Much of B.C. under air quality advisory as wildfires force evacuations, spread smoke

Evacuation orders in effect around Hudson’s Hope and Hope
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The Battleship Mountain wildfire burning near Hudson’s Hope, as seen Sept. 10. The town, as well as surrounding areas in the Peace River Regional District, have since been evacuated. (Photo courtesy of BC Wildfire Service)

Two B.C. communities are under evacuation order and many more are under a thick blanket of smoke Monday (Sept. 12) as wildfires continue to burn.

The Battleship Mountain wildfire in northeastern B.C. and Flood Falls Trail wildfire near Hope forced hundreds of people from their homes over the weekend.

On Saturday (Sept. 10), the districts of Hudson’s Hope and Peace River issued evacuation orders for the municipality of 1,000 and surrounding rural properties.

The following day, the Fraser Valley Regional District and District of Hope issued their own orders for 12 properties in Hope and nearby Laidlaw.

Residents in both communities were told to gather essential possessions and go. All evacuees are instructed to register for Emergency Support Services at ess.gov.bc.ca.

The Battleship Mountain fire is estimated at 24,284 hectares and is considered out of control. It was first discovered Aug. 30 and is believed to have been caused by lightning. Environment Canada says the fire is responsible for air quality advisories issued for the Peace River region.

Further south, the Flood Falls Trail wildfire near Hope and Heather Lake wildfire in Manning Park are believed to be causing much of the smoke.

Flood Falls Trail has grown exponentially since it was discovered Sept. 8. It’s estimated at 520 hectares as of Monday (Sept. 12) morning. BC Wildfire Service says it was likely caused by a person.

READ ALSO: Flood Falls Trail wildfire estimated at 520 hectares and growing

The Heather Lake wildfire is even larger with about 5,439 hectares burning on the Canadian side of the border, and another 4,919 hectares in the United States. Lightning is believed to have sparked it on Aug. 21. An evacuation alert is in effect for the cabin community of Eastgate, comprised of about 100 properties.

Environment Canada says smoke from both wildfires is contributing to poor air quality throughout Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and beyond.

Making matters worse is a 7,600-hectare wildfire in Washington State and several others in Oregon, which winds have been blowing into Vancouver Island and mainland B.C.

Environment Canada says air quality will vary across the province Monday and into the week, with conditions in some areas improving and other degrading.

Its air quality health index shows the worst conditions as of 8:30 a.m. are in the Eastern Fraser Valley, where on the 10-point scale it is rated a 10+, or “very high risk.” Ranked as “high risk” are Whistler and Cranbrook at nines, Squamish at an eight and Castlegar at a seven.

The lowest risk is in northeastern B.C., according to Environment Canada.

The weather agency says it expects a clearing trend to begin Monday evening, starting along the coast and then moving inland. It suggests people reduce their time outside if possible while smoke remains.

Across B.C., there are 193 wildfires actively burning. Sixty-six are in the southeast, 42 are coastal, 35 are around Prince George, 31 are in the Kamloops area, 12 are in the northwest and seven are in the Cariboo region. The majority (85 per cent) are believed to have been started by lightning, with another 12.4 per cent human-caused and the remainder unknown.

Since the start of the wildfire season, there have been 1,489 blazes, together burning 86,483 hectares of ground. Over the last decade, an average of 320,377 hectares have burned per wildfire season in the province.


@janeskrypnek
jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca

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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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