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Evacuation alerts issued as 2 fires threaten properties in B.C. Interior

Two wildfires in B.C.’s Central Interior have prompted evacuation alerts for residents of the province’s Cariboo region.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says the Dripping Water wildfire, originally discovered Thursday afternoon, is the bigger of the two fires, and has grown to 209 hectares, or 2.09 square kilometres.

Evacuation alerts have been issued by both the Tl’etinqox First Nation government and by the Cariboo Regional District for the area around the fire, about 600 kilometres north of Vancouver.

Joe Alphonse, chief of the Tl’etinqox First Nation, told CBC News that the community has been “knee-deep” fighting the blaze for three days.

“I think we got a pretty good look on the fire,” he said. “Hopefully the weather continues to co-operate and in a day or two, we should be right out of danger.”

An Indigenous man wearing a cowboy hat poses in front of a hill.
Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman of the Tl’etinqox Nation, is pictured at Farwell Canyon, B.C., in 2014. Alphonse says his community had issued evacuation alerts for five properties on the nation’s reserve. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

During the 2017 fire season, Alphonse says the nation was affected by fire to the east. This year, the Dripping Water fire is on the western side of the nation’s reserve. 

Among the 51 properties on evacuation alert due to the Dripping Water fire, five are on reserve. 

“If the winds don’t pick up, I think where we got it, but if the winds pick up, then it could go as big and it can go anywhere at once,” he said.

Nearby fire also prompts evacuation alerts

The nearby Lost Valley wildfire is also a wildfire of note, covering approximately 113 hectares, or 1.13 square kilometres, northwest of Kamloops.

The wildfire service says both fires are suspected to have been caused by human activity.

Alphonse said the fires — which came after an unusually hot weekend throughout B.C. — show the importance of fire prevention education. 

Twenty-seven properties in the area of the Bonaparte Plateau, northeast of Pressy Lake and south of North Bonaparte Road, are on evacuation alert due to the Lost Valley fire.

A map shows the boundaries of an evacuation order. Text says "Evacuation Alert April 29, 2023 @2000"
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District Emergency Operations Centre has issued an evacuation alert for an area northeast of Pressy Lake in Electoral Area E (Bonaparte Plateau), northwest of Kamloops, due to the Lost Valley wildfire. (@TNRD/Twitter)

Colton Davies, media relations officer for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, said it is “early in the year” for the district to be issuing evacuation alerts.

“Of course this weekend we’ve seen much warmer than normal temperatures and we have seen some winds as well, so it is a recipe for increased fire activity,” he told CBC News.

An evacuation alert means residents should prepare to evacuate their homes, possibly with little to no notice. An evacuation order — which has not yet been issued in this instance — means a resident should leave immediately.

Trauma for some residents

Lorne Smith, a resident of Pressy Lake, said he lost his home in 2017 to the historic Elephant Hill wildfire and the evacuation alert issued Saturday brought back traumatic memories.

People are being told to pack essential items — like government-issued ID, medications and valuable papers — fill their gas tanks, and prepare to take their pets and move livestock to a safe area.

Plumes of smoke rise from behind two rural properties.
The Lost Valley fire is pictured northwest of Kamloops earlier this week. Dozens of properties are on evacuation alert in the region. (Submitted by Lorne Smith)

“The last time we left we never saw our house again,” Smith said. “We’re kinda hesitant on leaving, but from what I saw yesterday when I went up there and how fast the flames were advancing, it opened up my eyes.”

The B.C. Wildfire Service says it has sent air tankers, helicopters and heavy equipment to the fires.

The Lost Valley and Dripping Water wildfires are the two fires of note — considered particularly visible or posing a threat to public safety — burning in the province as of Sunday afternoon.

As of 12 p.m. Sunday, there are 46 fires burning in the province and four are considered out of control. There have been 111 fires so far this season.

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