A wildfire was sparked in Monte Lake next to Highway 97 Wednesday. (BC Wildfire Service image)

Wildfire fighting costs hit $154 million

14 new fires started on Wednesday

The cost of the province’s firefighting efforts have hit $154 million.

Fourteen new fires sparked on Wednesday, chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek told reporters on Thursday, for a total of 148 burning across B.C. currently. Since April 1, 794 wildfires have been burning across the province.

The newest major blaze started near Monte Lake, southeast of Kamloops, on Wednesday. Since then, rumours have swirled over whether a thrown cigarette may have caused it.

RELATED: Monte Lake wildfire 30 per cent contained

“It does appear that the fire started fairly close to Hwy. 97… but the investigation is ongoing,” said Skrepnek. The fire currently sits at 150 hectares.

“I think the speed and aggressiveness with which this fire displayed yesterday speaks to just how hot and dry conditions are out there… and how quickly these fires can grow.”

RELATED: Hikers fined for campfire in Cariboo

Skrepnek implored people to take precautions and fire-safe their homes.

“There’s a lot of practical things that people can do that don’t take a lot of time,” he said. “Moving woodpiles away from their houses, moving propane tanks away, spacing out trees, cleaning out gutters… basically moving any potential combustibles away from the house.”

Emergency Management BC deputy minister Robert Turner warned evacuees returning to Williams Lake to be careful. Part of the evacuation order for the area was downgraded to an evacuation alert earlier Thursday, and residents were allowed to go back home nearly two weeks after being forced out.

“We would encourage people to be looking at the maps to ensure that their specific area has changed from an order status to an alert status before they would be making a decision to return,” said Turner. “For those who do return, there will be a resilience centre set up in Williams Lake tomorrow.”

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