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Cooler conditions offer fractional relief to crews battling nearly 300 B.C. wildfires

Travel complicated by fire closure of the Coquihalla Highway, mudslide severing Highway 1
The remains of a large structure and vehicles destroyed by the Lytton Creek wildfire are seen on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway near Lytton, B.C., on Aug. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Nearly 300 wildfires are burning across British Columbia but showers and cooler temperatures have taken an edge off the most aggressive blazes and curbed a cascade of evacuation orders and alerts.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan says it plans to contact individual property owners through the day to inform them about the state of their homes along the northwest side of Okanagan Lake.

The roughly 650-square kilometre White Rock Lake fire swept through the communities of Killiney and Ewings Landing yesterday.

The district estimates about 70 properties have been burned, in addition to those in Monte Lake and Westwold levelled by the same fire earlier this month.

Evacuation orders and alerts issued over the last two days are still posted for many cities, towns and districts in the southern Interior threatened by several other large fires, including fires near West Kelowna, Merritt and Kamloops.

Travel into the Interior has been complicated by the closure of Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway, as fire cut the route Sunday, while a mudslide has severed Highway 1 about 30 kilometres north of Lytton.

That leaves Highway 3 as the only main road to or from the Lower Mainland. But that route is also shrouded by thick smoke from a fire burning between Hope and Princeton.

Drive BC, the province’s online travel information service, says a geotechnical survey of the Highway 1 slide is planned, but there’s no word when the highway could reopen and no confirmation of what caused the slide.

The BC Wildfire Service says 43 firefighters and technicians arrived in the province from Yukon on Monday, raising the total number of out-of-province firefighters to 519, including crews from Australia, Mexico, the Prairies, central and eastern Canada.

Statistics from the wildfire service show 8,262 properties around B.C. are on evacuation order, a leap of nearly 2,000 since Friday, while residents of almost 23,000 more home must be ready to leave on short notice.

Just over 8,000 square kilometres of trees, bush and grassland have been charred since the start of the wildfire season, an increase of nearly 400 square kilometres in a single day.

—The Canadian Press

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