Williams Lake and 100 Mile remain empty as wildfires continue to threaten communities in the Cariboo-Chilcotin and across the province. Highway 20 remains open to eastbound traffic only and is closed to westbound vehicle traffic. Essential services such as freight, fuel and medical supplies are being permitted through.
For weeks, a stretch of hot, dry weather has worked against fire crews on the front lines. For the most part this weather trend is expected to continue as fire crews struggle to get a foot hold on some of the more aggressive fires close to larger urban centres.
In Williams Lake today Mayor Walt Cobb said it was the “smokiest day yet.”
“I’m sitting in front of CJ’s Southwestern Grill right now and can only see as far as the hospital,” Cobb told the Tribune, noting he was at the restaurant to make sure owner Cathie Rossignol has everything she needs because she and her staff are cooking for workers on the front line.
Trucks hauling gas, food and medical supplies are being let into the city, no questions asked, Cobb said.
“We are starting to run out of things and are hoping to make arrangements for some of the grocery stores to be able to bring enough workers in to sell essentials like milk.”
Cobb and his wife Lynnette have been sleeping in a motorhome at the fire hall.
Echoing Cobb, Councillor Scott Nelson said the smoke was very thick.
“It is probably one of the thickest smoke days we have had since the fires broke out,” he said. “Everybody is wearing masks.”
Nelson said the City is hoping to try and get people back in the community as soon as possible and is starting to put a plan in place to co-ordinate a safe re-entry.
“People are hoping to get home as soon as possible,” he added.
Yesterday the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) upped the numbers of homes lost to wildfires in the area to 41.
“It is quite likely the number will go up,” says CRD Chair Al Richmond. Many areas have been too hot or dangerous for assessment teams to reach so far.
To date, the CRD has only announced two homes lost in the South Cariboo region, to families in the 108 Mile Ranch area. Four houses, a shop and a shed were also announced as lost earlier in the 150 Mile House area.
Closer to home an evacuation order remains in place for the community of Kleena Kleene. Crews are working to widen the fire guard and it’s currently estimated at 5,000 hectares.
The Hanceville/Riske Creek fire remains the largest in the region by a wide margin at 125,000 hectares. The Precipice fire located in Tweedsmuir Park remains active and is estimated to be 2,000 hectares.