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Fire situation remains critical



Large fires contained but risk remains extreme

At press time, there were still approximately 875 forest fires burning across B.C. – many are under control, but there are still enough to keep more than 2,000 firefighters and thousands of volunteers on the job.

The declaration of a state of emergency for the province has remained in place as well, as hot and dry conditions have persisted in much of the province.

The majority of fires have occurred in the Interior, which is also suffering from a water shortage as a result of a low snowpack and a dry spring. The causes were typically either lightning or human error. The worst fire, a blaze in the McLure-Barriere area north of Kamloops, was started by a firefighter who did not extinguish his cigarette properly. That fire destroyed 65 homes and a local sawmill.

The large fires have been contained to some degree, and most of the people who were evacuated have been allowed to return to their homes. Still, there is a chance that other serious fires could develop.

In Whistler and the Coast Region, the fire hazard rating remains extreme despite some rain over the past week. There is a ban on all fires in provincial parks, as well as bans on all backyard burning. Barbecues have not been returned to public parks.

"There are no changes to the rating right now," said Assistant Whistler Fire Chief Rob Whitton, but he said the rating could go down from ‘Extreme’ to ‘High’ this week.

Two weekends ago, the Whistler Fire Department was called out three times to put out small fires caused by discarded cigarettes. On Tuesday, they were called out to Treetop Lane to handle a grass fire that had been started by an individual. People from the neighbourhood had extinguished the fire before the fire department arrived, and the fire department is attributing the cause to "human failure". They know the individual responsible for that fire, but have not laid any charges.

According to Whitton, the fire hazard may go down from Extreme to High because of a number of factors, including humidity, ground moisture, winds and temperature, but the difference between those two hazard levels is slight.

"It’s a fine line," he said. "It’s a couple of degrees in temperature, a couple of drops in the humidity level – a few little changes bring the risk from High to Extreme."

If the fire hazard level does go down, he says nothing will change locally – the same bans will still be in place for the region.

Right now the fire department is asking people to be vigilant, to think before they dispose of cigarettes, and to keep an eye out.

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