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Stop ignoring evacuation orders: BC Wildfire Service

'If you’re staying behind, things can change very quickly'

During this dynamic and aggressive wildfire season, it appears some people are ignoring first responders' recommendations. 

Jean Strong, fire information officer with BC Wildfire Service, says there is a significant number of residents across the province being placed on evacuation orders or alerts — and that number fluctuates daily. 

As of Saturday morning (July 31), 3,120 properties are on evacuation order and 18,835 people are on evacuation alert. 

“One of the unfortunate things that we’ve experienced over the last little while is reluctancy from people to heed those evacuation orders when they’re issued, which is really concerning for us,” says Strong.

Heading into what is expected to be a tremulous weekend of fire activity, she’s reminding people that others may be at risk by not following orders.

“The advice is really to respect the orders that come in so if you’re placed on alert that you are ready to evacuate on a moments notice and using that time to get your belongings ready,” Strong adds.

“Not following the orders puts people at risk. It puts you at risk if you’re staying behind and you’re family if they’re with you, it also affects the safety of our responders.” 

Wildfire activity has proven challenging this year, with fires rapidly growing once they are sparked and wind only fuelling them more. 

“If you’re staying behind, things can change very quickly,” Strong says. 

In the past 24 hours, an additional 62 properties are now on order across the province and 144 new alerts have been issued. 

The Tremont wildfire, estimated at nearly 20,000 hectares, continues to exhibit extremely vigorous fire behaviour and has forced new evacuation alerts as of Friday evening (July 30). 

"The fire is currently 18 km northwest of Logan Lake and is moving in a northeast direction at a moderate pace,” states the BC Wildfire Service, and based on current fire behaviour, it has also recommended expanded evacuation orders and alerts to the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) such as Tunkwa Provincial Park. 

Strong wants to remind people there are dedicated teams to protect people’s homes and properties. 

“We do have structure protection specialists who we can deploy from the BC Wildfire Service as well as structure protection crews. This year especially, we have seen help from structural fire departments from around the province who are deployed through the Office of the Fire Commissioner." 

These crews take many measures to protect people’s homes and install sprinklers or pumps so there is water surrounding the property. 

“We're just anticipating the weekend and waiting to see what happens with the dry-lightning that is predicated,” says Strong. 

High temperatures are also expected in parts of the province over the long weekend, causing B.C.’s chief coroner to release a statement.

"We have now confirmed that, from June 20 to July 29, 569 people died as a result of the extreme heat,” Lisa Lapointe explains.

"The data confirms what is known about the risks of extreme heat for older individuals and shows that British Columbia's seniors were most impacted by this event."

She’s urging people to look after family, friends and particularly those who are elderly and live alone.