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Showers for much of B.C., as evacuation concerns grow in southern Interior

About 20 mm of rain expected for Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver
Firefighters inspect the site of a small wildfire in Dry Creek gully in Port Alberni Monday, July 17, 2023. (PORT ALBERNI FIRE DEPT. PHOTO)

For the first time in more than a month, showers and cooler weather are reaching parched sections of British Columbia, potentially bringing some respite for crews battling hundreds of wildfires.

Environment Canada says about 20 millimetres of rain should dampen Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver.

But showers could be spottier around Kamloops, where a fire just south of the city has forced the evacuation of 344 properties.

Rancher Doug Haughton told CHNL radio the Ross Moore Lake fire “blew up like a cannon” over the weekend after it started on Friday afternoon.

Haughton, who is also director of Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s electoral area L, says he worked all day Sunday to evacuate his animals from the approaching fire, and some neighbours “have been hit very, very hard.”

The BC Wildfire Service says the fire now covers 18 square kilometres, prompting the regional district to sharply boost evacuation orders on Sunday.

The fire, which has been fanned by strong winds, is one of nearly 500 active wildfires across B.C., an increase of about 100 in recent days.

“It’s not pretty up there,” Haughton said of the fire. “Just looking from downtown Kamloops, it’s nothing short of butt-ugly.”

Regional district information officer Colton Davies said smoke from the blaze is “extremely visible” from both the Coquihalla Highway and Highway 5A, and strong winds blowing northeast fanned the growth of the fire and spread smoke over Kamloops and other communities.

Davies said the region’s high temperatures and low humidity created an environment for the fire to spread quickly over the weekend, and the threat is persisting.

“We’re not expecting it to be as hot today, but it’s still summertime in the Southern Interior,” he said. “And we are expecting, just looking at the forecast, more winds today, which is never ideal for fire situations.”

The wildfire danger rating is high to extreme across southern B.C., including around Cranbrook, where a week-old blaze has charred 40 square kilometres, forcing evacuations and alerts for hundreds of properties.

The weather office expects showers and cooler temperatures will sidestep Cranbrook and much of B.C.’s southeast corner.

The wildfire service is reporting 487 active wildfires across the province, with more than half ranked as out of control.

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