People view the Island Lake fire in north-central B.C. from Francois Lake Road, 17 August 2018. Photo: David Luggi / PNG

20 August 2018 (The Canadian Press) – Some headway was made over the weekend battling hundreds of blazes across British Columbia, according to crews battling the wildfires, but thick smoke continues to blanket the province and create challenges for communities far from any flames.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says there weren't many lightning strikes last weekend, allowing crews to concentrate on some of the 54 blazes threatening people or property.

The largest fire continues to be the 850-square-kilometre Shovel Lake blaze moving north from Fraser Lake toward Fort St. James.

Officials say an increase in wildfire activity in southeastern B.C. is also a concern. In Kimberley, thousands of people are still on evacuation alert.

The air-quality health index released by the B.C. government shows a very high health risk in areas from Whistler, Squamish and Nanaimo to the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan, Castlegar and parts of Metro Vancouver.

Two boys walk outside their home on a ranch as the Shovel Lake wildfire burns in the distance sending a massive cloud of smoke into the air near Fort St. James, B.C., on Friday, 17 August 2018. Photo: Darryl Dyck / Canadian Press

The elderly, children and people with pre-existing health conditions in those areas are advised to stay inside.

A grey haze cut visibility and disrupted air traffic in Kamloops and Kelowna on the weekend, but both airports report that travel has not been affected so far Monday.

Sean Parker, the on-call airport manager in Kelowna, said there was less than one kilometre of visibility on Sunday, which meant smaller planes couldn't land safely.

"To be honest with you, I've personally never seen it this bad," he said. "You look out the window here in Kelowna​ … It's like we're in a fog."

The conditions motivated some people to change their plans, such as not spending the weekend outdoors or cutting short camping trips.

That's what Anita Sparrow and her family did at Golden Ears Provincial Park east of Vancouver on Sunday.

"It's supposed to be 33 C, clear skies," she said about the cool temperatures due to hazy conditions.

She said the conditions made her feel like she had a cold. One of her children has had to use an inhaler.

Still, she said it could be worse, considering the South Coast is mostly suffering from smoke and not flames.

"We're lucky here, so even for us to say, 'Oh it ruined our vacation,' well it's ruining people's homes, it's ruining wildlife, it's ruining full communities, so I feel blessed living in this part of B.C." [more]

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Officials report headway on wildfires as thick smoke hangs over province


A helicopter being used to fight a smaller fire nearby flies past a large plume of smoke rising from a wildfire near Fraser Lake, B.C., on 15 August 2018. Photo: The Canadian Press

By Gordon Hoekstra
17 August 2018

(Vancouver Sun) – David Luggi and his family were packed and ready to go at a moments notice on Friday.

Their community of Stellako is on the western edge of Fraser Lake, just outside an evacuation order area, one of several in north-central B.C. west of Prince George, where hundreds of square kilometres of tinder-dry forest is burning.

One of those is the Shovel Lake fire just to the north of Fraser Lake and Stellako, where the B.C. Wildfire Service issued an extreme-fire-behaviour warning late Thursday because of expected high winds.

The Shovel Lake fire has burned 790 square kilometres, nearly 200 times the size of Stanley Park.

“It’s been a period of high anxiety. But we’re getting used to dealing with it,” said Luggi, a former chief of the Stellat’en First Nation.

He said many residents of Stellako — the elderly, people with health issues and people with young children — had already fled to Prince George, 160 kilometres to the west, where there is an evacuation centre set up.

Luggi said he will be staying put, waiting to see if the evacuation alert is boosted to an order. He figures he can be on the road with his trailer and family within 30 minutes. […]

Luggi said he had never seen an August like this, with no rain, a time of year when usually temperatures are dropping, you can feel the coolness in the air and the leaves are close to starting dropping.

It has been another hot fire season in B.C. with a provincial state of emergency being declared on Wednesday.

A woman walks across a street just after 10 a.m. in near darkness due to thick smoke blanketing the city because of wildfires in the region, in Prince George, B.C., on Friday, 17 August 2018. Sunrise was at 5:53 a.m. but the city spent most of the morning in darkness. Photo: Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

Around the province, more than 1,800 fires have burned about 4,360 square kilometres, inching it closer to making it the third worst fire season since 1950. Last year, when 12,000 square kilometres burned, was the worst. […]

In Prince George on Friday, the smoke from wildfires had created an eerie darkness. People had woken up to a dusky morning that became darker. “It was surreal,” said B.C.’s chief fire information officer, Kevin Skrepnek, who was in Prince George on Friday. [more]

B.C. wildfires 2018: Families on edge and on alert in northern B.C.

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