First Nations in B.C remain on evacuation orders and alert 

Wildfire smoke gusts over the mountains surrounding Harrison Hot Springs, B.C. Photo: Leah Ballantyne.

For the first time in her life, Leah Ballantyne of Harrison Hot Springs, B.C., has packed an emergency bag in preparation of evacuating due to wildfires.

“Given the forest here the area all of B.C. is tinderbox dry and it wouldn’t take much for a fire to start,” says Ballantyne, a member of Matias Colomb Cree Nation.

“We can see from Kelowna that the embers from that fire jumped the lake from West Kelowna, into the city of Kelowna. So, something like that could easily happen.”

Harrison Hot Springs, a small community in the Fraser Valley is nestled between two mountain ranges with only one road in and out. This has prompted Ballantyne and others in the community to be cautious of the weather and unpredictability of the fires.

“I really think these wildfires are moving at a rate that nobody can predict but you have to prepare.”

As of Tuesday, August 22, evacuation orders and alerts are in place for 21 First Nations due to growing wildfires that are sweeping across the province.

British Columbia remains in a provincial state of emergency, enacting emergency orders including travel restrictions in Okanagan cities to preserve accommodations for evacuees and roads for emergency vehicles.

The McDougall Creek fire, burning north of West Kelowna, has grown to 12,000 hectares in size according to the B.C. Wildfire Service this morning.

West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund said the total number of structural losses from wildfires in Westbank First Nation, located adjacent to West Kelowna, is estimated to be less than 20 at a press conference on Tuesday.

In a video statement posted to the band’s Facebook page, Westbank First Nation Councillor Jordan Coble confirmed that despite little threat to homes and infrastructure, the community will remain under evacuation order and alert.

“The situation as it stands today has been quite favourable as in regard to fighting fires, the wind is quite calm, and the fire remains active in certain areas but there is very little to no threat at all to homes or infrastructure at this time,” says Coble.

“This is absolutely due to the bravery and commitment of the firefighters and the B.C. wildfire service teams working throughout the day and night, some of whom have continued to fight the fire despite themselves being on evacuation order and some have even lost their own homes.”

Over 27,000 people remain on emergency order and another 35,000 are on evacuation alert across the province according to Bowinn Ma, the minister of emergency management and climate readiness.

Contribute Button