UPDATE: The Cariboo Regional District has issued an evacuation order for 14 properties along Judson Road.
As of 5:30 p.m. the CRD said there is an immediate danger to life posed by the wildfires. Members of the RCMP and other groups will be expediting this action due to the danger.
The evacuation route is via Horse Lake Road to Highway 24 and from there to 100 Mile House. The CRD advises evacuees to leave the area immediately.
The CRD has also issued an evacuation alert for Sulphurous Lake for 153 properties due to the potential danger to life and health. Residents are advised to prepare to evacuate to 100 Mile House should the need arise.
Earlier today, the Cariboo Regional District issued an evacuation order for Deka Lake - 14 hours after residents were told to prepare to leave.
The order comes as more new wildfires are springing up across the Cariboo - 33 have occurred in the past 24 hours. The bulk of them are in the South Cariboo, including a 10-hectare blaze at the end of Horse Lake Road and a six-hectare fire in Lone Butte near Irish Lake. Watch Lake Road and Deka Lake roads have been closed to traffic, while Horse Lake Road is only open to local residents.
Chris Keam, CRD’s manager of communications said the order applies to 679 homes, although the total number of people in the area is unknown as there are recreational properties that may be vacant at this time. Evacuees being asked to leave the Interlakes via Highway 24 and register with Emergency Support Services (ESS) at the South Cariboo Rec Centre in 100 Mile House.
ESS organizer Liz Jones said she is expected between 600 and 700 people at the emergency reception area. Residents must follow COVID-19 protocols at the reception area, including wearing masks at all times “because we have to keep our staff safe,” Jones said. Those who aren’t going to the evacuation centre are asked to call the ESS to check in at 587-645-4842.
About a dozen volunteers were setting up reception tables - with glass dividers - to prepare for the evacuees, who are required to leave their homes immediately. A steady stream of vehicles, many with trailers, were seen leaving the area.
Jones said they will aim to help people by providing information and helping them to find housing if they don’t have insurance. The District of 100 Mile House is expected to hold a meeting with them later on. “They had lots of time to pack food so it will be on a needs-only basis,” she said.
BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Jessica Mack said Wednesday evening there were four clusters of wildfires in the region, including in the Deka Lake and Interlakes area, Horse Lake-Lone Butte, Canim Lake and Green Lake and Watch Lake.
Earlier Wednesday, police went door-to-door telling residents in Lone Butte to be prepared to evacuate. 100 Mile RCMP Cpl. Ryder Birtwistle said although Lone Butte residents weren’t required to leave at this time, some chose to go.
“We’re not evacuating anyone at this time but we want people to be prepared so we don’t have a situation like in 2017 when we went door-to-door, telling them to leave with nothing,” Birtwistle said, adding the fire appeared to be heading in the direction of McMillan Road and Horse Lake.
Resident Lisa Banner, who lives at 6071 Highway 24 behind the Butte, said she hadn’t noticed the fire - due to all the smoke - until two firetrucks rolled up her driveway. After an assessment, they left to deal with another fire but advised her to be ready to evacuate.
Wasting no time Banner called her husband home and they began packing their essentials. Around 5:30 p.m. they checked on the fire and saw flames coming towards them so they fled to the Lone Butte rest stop. From there they sat back and watched the planes fight the blaze, which was practically in her backyard.
“I’m super impressed, they saved our house, 100 per cent,” Banner said. “We’re still super thankful, even if it doesn’t work out in our favour.”
Birtwistle said the BC Wildfire Service and Lone Butte Fire Department, who worked together battling the blaze were “hitting it hard” with two tankers, two helicopters and two smaller bombers to douse the flames. He asked people to keep the road open to local traffic only, noting there were cars blocking the road in and out of the fire scene. “It’s getting lots of attention,” he said.
Earlier in the evening on Wednesday, BC Wildfire Service crews in a helicopter were dropping water over a fire on Watch Lake Road. That fire had initially been fought by the Watch Lake-North Green Lake Fire Department, which described it as a “runaway type five fire.”
The fires were reported as thunder rolled through the region. Early Wednesday morning, Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm is on the radar for 100 Mile House as a “dangerous” heat wave continues in the area.
The thunderstorm is predicted as the historic ridge of high pressure, which has caused record-breaking temperatures across the province, shifts to the east. “The main threats will be very strong wind gusts and intense lightning, with some areas seeing bursts of heavy rain,” the statement reads.
The CRD urges residents to gather family members or co-workers and pack essential items such as medications and valuable papers. They should not shut off their natural gas. For more information, visit CRD Emergency Operations Facebook page at facebook.com/CRDEmergencyOperations as well as the CRD website at cariboord.ca/EOC.