So far B.C. most communities have been spared by wildfires this season, but with more than two months of summer remaining and conditions already as dry as they were last August, things could get a lot worse before they get better.
As of press time there were 427 wildfires burning in B.C. and the province has also burned through $32 million of its $50 million firefighting budget for this year.
The final firefighting bill for last year was $375 million, which does not include the funding set aside for fire victims and evacuees. The total cost to the province is estimated at more than half a billion dollars.
Close to Whistler, the Office of the Fire Commissioner expanded an evacuation alert advisory to include several communities in the Seton Lake area, including residential areas within the District of Lillooet, a Cayoosh Indian Band reserve, and all of Electoral Area B of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.
Families are being urged to prepare for evacuation, arranging meeting places with family members and packing essential items like clothing, medication, eyeglasses, valuable papers, and keepsakes such as photographs. They have also been asked to look after the immediate care needs of dependants for quick departure, including children, disabled persons, pets and livestock.
People should be ready to leave on short notice in the event of an evacuation order, and to arrange accommodation if possible. If youre staying with friends or family members outside of the evacuation area, you should inform the emergency reception centre. Residents are also advised to listen to CHLS Radio Lillooet on 100.5 FM for updates and instructions.
The Coastal Fire Centre has put a campfire ban in place for the entire region. The Coast Forest Region includes Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Sunshine Coast to north of Prince Rupert, and the Sea to Sky region.
In Whistler the fire risk moved up from High to Extreme this week, which has resulted in the halt of all construction on properties in an interface forest by 1 p.m. each day. Whistler-Blackcomb is also taking extra precautions.
According to Starr Munro, the fire information officer for the Coastal Fire Centre, fire crews are taking extra precautions this weekend, with many Canadians and Americans taking a long weekend for Canada Day on July 1 and Independence Day on July 4.
"Were definitely a lot drier than we are typically this time of year, and as a result were fully geared up for this weekend, were anticipating some extra fire activity," said Munro. "Not only because of people heading into the woods, but also because were looking at the possibility of more lightning coming through the region."