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Wildfires: Public urged not to travel to North Okanagan communities over weekend

Increased fire activity forecasted, next 72 hours will be critical says ministry
With increased fire behaviour expected, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth urged people not to travel to North Okanagan communities over Aug. 13-15 weekend. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

With the wildfire situation expected to worsen, the B.C. government is asking people not to travel to parts of the North Okanagan over the weekend.

In particular, the province is asking that people not visit the communities of Armstrong, Enderby and Spallumcheen, parts of the Regional District of North Okanagan and the Okanagan Indian Band. Each of these have been affected by evacuation alerts and/or evacuation orders related to the White Rock Lake wildfire which, as of Friday, Aug. 13, was estimated to be 58,000 hectares in size.

Increased fire activity in the area is forecasted over the weekend, including significant winds that may move fires quickly due to the nature of the terrain, reads an Aug. 13 media release from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. The next 72 hours will be critical, and the province is preparing for more evacuation orders and alerts.

“We’re taking this proactive step because we want to ensure people in these communities are able to evacuate if necessary, access the supports they need, as well as the safety of our firefighters on the ground,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. “While we are acting out of an abundance of caution, this situation is very serious and could get worse quickly. If you were planning to travel to the area, now is not the time to do so.”

Read more: UPDATE: Aerial ignitions planned for White Rock Lake wildfire ahead of gusty winds

Read more: Momich Lake wildfire in North Shuswap nearly doubles in size, no structures lost

There are multiple fires threatening communities in the region and thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes, many requiring commercial accommodation, reads the release. Communities in the region are also extremely smoky and hot, with above seasonal temperatures.

Interior Health has also advised that non-essential travel to and from the Central Okanagan should be avoided due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

The government stresses it is not asking those who live in the region, and are not under an evacuation order, to leave.

“Be ready to go if you’re under an evacuation alert. For evacuation orders, leave immediately.”

In the North Okanagan, for information about wildfires, current evacuation alerts and orders in place, visit your local municipal or regional district website and/or Facebook page, or the BC Wildfire Service website.
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