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14,000 evacuated due to B.C. wildfires

Firefighters from Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan are on their way

There are 14,000 people now evacuated as a result of the B.C. wildfires in interior B.C. , according to Emergency Management B.C.

“We are encouraging everyone to register with the Red Cross,” said Emergency Management B.C. deputy executive director Bob Turner. Those who register will be eligible for an assistance package, although the details are still being worked out.

“We are estimating… the number today has changed because of people moving from 100 Mile but also because registration is starting to catch up. This could have changed since it was handed to me an hour ago.”

The $600 of assistance money will be available to both those displaced by the forest fires.

“We’re not limiting the assistance necessarily to those that are residents from the affected areas,” Turner said. “We will have stranded travellers and others that have been made vulnerable by the event.”

There is no word yet on matching funds for emergency aid from the federal government, Turner added, but noted that contact has been made with Ottawa. British Columbia has also been in talks with Alberta in hopes of learning from last year’s Fort McMurray wildfires.

“We have studied very closely the after [incident] reports to make sure that we are applying any lessons learned there,” said Turner.

RELATED: 100 Mile is under evacuation

BC Wildfire Service says that 29 new fires were started on Sunday for a total of 218 fires burning in the province as of Monday afternoon. That is down from the 140 new fires that started on Friday and the 100 fires that started on Saturday, something chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek attributes to fewer lightning strikes across B.C.

As of Monday, just over 40,000 hectares have burned across B.C. since April 1.

“We’ve had 572 fires to date. So far we’ve ascertained that 258 of those were person-caused,” said Skrepnek. “There are a number of fires now that we haven’t determined causes for.”

The average fire season is typically split 60-40 with 60 per cent of all fires caused by lightning. The current figures sit at 45 per cent.

There are 300 firefighters en route to Kelowna and Prince George from Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, Skrepnek added. He hopes the additional resources will help the 1,000 firefighters on the ground currently avoid fatigue.

“This is only 10 days into July and there is a potential that we could see this level of activity continue,” said Skrepnek. “Our people do need to pace ourselves.”

Firefighters can work a maximum of 14 consecutive days before taking a few days off, he added.

Turner said there is no estimate on the number of structures destroyed in the blaze. BC Hydro has 60 crews repairing downed power lines and other infrastructure in fire-ravaged communities.

A current list of large wildfire sizes is below:

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