Toni Kerekes helps battle a wildfire in Squamish, B.C., Thursday, April 16, 2020. The BC Wildfire Service says crews are making good progress on a ground fire that’s so far charred one square kilometre of bush and trees in the Upper Squamish Valley. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Felix McEachran Mandatory Credit

B.C. blaze that destroyed homes near Squamish doubles in size: wildfire service

Evacuation orders and alerts for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District remain in place

The first major blaze of B.C.’s 2020 fire season has doubled in size near Squamish, but the BC Wildfire Service says that is due to better mapping, not further spread of the flames.

Wildfire service information officer Marg Drysdale says the fire in the Squamish Valley is now estimated at 203 hectares, or just over two-square kilometres.

She says 46 firefighters, four helicopters and several pieces of heavy equipment are being used to fight the fire, along with two fallers who will cut trees weakened by the fire along Squamish Valley Road.

Toni Kerekes, who operates a riding school in the area, says random trees were burning like candles in the forest and flames climbed “like a ladder” up the steep valley hillside in the hours after the fire broke out.

She says she saw at least three charred homes as she escaped the area with her family and horses late Wednesday.

Drysdale says the situation Friday is calmer, with cooler, moist conditions favourable to firefighting efforts, although she says the blaze remains uncontained.

“We know the fire is person-caused,” she said, adding it remained under investigation.

Conditions are extremely dry in the valley and in neighbouring Paradise Valley north of Squamish, but Drysdale said crews were managing to keep flames from cresting the ridge and moving closer to Paradise Valley homes.

Evacuation orders and alerts issued by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District remain in place.

The District of Squamish was also maintaining its declaration of local emergency, issued shortly after the fire was reported.

The Canadian Press

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