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As the southern suburbs of British Columbia are warned about the risk of airborne particulate matter from wildfire smoke, blaze fighters in the central Okanagan say the smoke is helping their cause.
A special declaration of air quality and smoky skies bulletin it is in place from Vancouver Island east to the Alberta border, as well as in the central interior, due to smoke from hundreds of wildfires burning across the province.
An additional of air quality advisory remains in effect for Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley, warning of high concentrations of fine airborne particles.
While the amount of smoke in the air has created unhealthy conditions for people, it is also reducing the intensity of the sun, which is helping to fight the wildfires, BC Interior crews say.
“Yesterday was the first day where we really felt like we were moving forward instead of backward, and that continues,” West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said Monday morning.
Crews have been able to shut down hot spots and create guards around houses in their community, and in neighboring Kelowna as well.
Brolund said a process is now in place for officials to better assess the amount of damage that McDougall Creek Wildfire has caused. It is now 110 square kilometers and still burning out of control.
Once the damage assessment is complete, residents can be notified and utilities can be restored to the remaining homes. After that, Brolund said, it would be possible to re-enter the area.
He did not provide any timetable, but said he was “optimistic.”
So far there is no official tally of how many homes have been destroyed in BC since fire activity sharply accelerated last week, but authorities have acknowledged the damage as “significant.”
There are more than 380 active wildfires in BC as of early Monday, fueled by wind, drought and hot weather that have left landscapes parched.
Of those fires, 157 are considered out of control, while 14 are classified as notable fires, meaning they are particularly visible or threatening property.
An unknown number of homes have also been destroyed in the Shuswap region, east of Kamloops, where the bush creek east fire it is now burning over 410 square kilometers around Adams Lake and Shuswap Lake.
In a long chain of posts on Xformerly known as Twitter, the BC Forest Fire Service said late Sunday that firefighters had made good progress on the fires in Shuswap.
The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Center is expected to provide an update on the wildfire situation in the region at 10 am PT Monday.
Travel restrictions, advisories
The province is in a state of emergency, and travel to the interior of southern BC has been restrictedpreventing tourists from using hotels, motels, RV parks, and other temporary accommodations in Kelowna and West Kelowna, Kamloops, Oliver, Osoyoos, Penticton, and Vernon, so they can be used for evacuees.
The wildfires are also affecting several travel corridors across BC Highway 1 is closed in at least two places: between Lytton and Hope in Fraser Canyon, and between Chase and Sorrento in Shuswap.
Other travel advisories:
- Highway 97, in both directions, just south of Coldstream to Peachland.
- Highway 97, in both directions, four miles north of Vernon two miles south of Osoyoos.
- Highway 5A, in both directions, between Old Kamloops Road and Roche Lake Road for 13 kilometers south of Kamloops.
DriveBC has a complete list of all road closures and travel advisories.
READ MORE ABOUT FOREST FIRES:
An estimated 30,000 people are under evacuation orders in the province due to the blazes, about a third of them in the Kelowna area, as the McDougall Creek wildfire burns on both sides of Okanagan Lake.
Seagun Laboucane, a West Kelowna resident who was forced to flee her home, said coping with the uncertainty related to the fires is difficult, particularly “trying to navigate the emotions that come along with it and also staying strong and moving on.” , said. .
Suzanne and Andreas Grooters set up camp in the parking lot of a Kelowna-area mall with their five dogs after being forced to flee the McDougall Creek wildfire. It is the third time in their lives that they have been forced to evacuate their home due to forest fires.
“It could be worse. We have each other and we have our dogs,” Suzanne Grooters said.
The province announced Sunday that it is providing support, including shelter, food and clothing, to evacuees across the province through its Emergency Support Services. Those who require support should follow the instructions provided by their local authority or First Nation on how to register.
Ottawa approved a request from the British Columbia government for additional support in managing the bushfire situation, and the federal government is sending military assets and other resources to help with evacuations and other logistical tasks.
All evacuees are also asked to register through a provincial portal.
Anyone with an evacuation order must leave the area immediately.
Evacuation centers have been set up across the province to help anyone evacuating a community threatened by a bushfire.
To find the center closest to you, visit the EmergencyInfoBC website.
Evacuees are encouraged to register with Online emergency support serviceswhether or not they access the services of an evacuation center.
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