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Heat wave, winds compound wildfire risk in B.C., with no relief due until Sunday

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More than a dozen temperature records have fallen across southern and central British Columbia as a heat wave intensifies, adding to challenges facing crews battling nearly 270 wildfires in all corners of the province.

An extreme heat alert has been issued by health authorities in Metro Vancouver as temperatures, coupled with humidity, are expected to reach the high 30s today, with little relief expected before late Sunday.

Environment Canada has also posted heat warnings from Greater Victoria to the inland north coast and east to the Kamloops region.

Some of yesterday’s 15 temperature records shattered previous daily highs by seven degrees or, in Victoria and Comox, eclipsed records that have stood for 101 years.

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Heat and accompanying gusty winds have ramped up wildfire activity in the southern Interior, prompting an evacuation order southwest of Kamloops for 2,000 residents in Logan Lake and an evacuation alert for the area to the east, including the community of Cherry Creek.

An evacuation order was also expanded for properties near a 326-square kilometre wildfire that has been burning for more than six weeks north of Lillooet.

Some residents in the Township of Spallumcheen north of Vernon are again on evacuation alert as the White Rock Lake wildfire resists efforts to contain it.

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The B.C. government says 6,600 square kilometres of land has been charred by the nearly 1,500 wildfires recorded since the season began in April.

Residents of more than 6,000 properties are on evacuation order, straining the capacity of surrounding communities to handle them and forcing the District of Logan Lake to send its evacuees to Chilliwack, more than two hours to the south.

The Logan Lake evacuation came as the BC Wildfire Service said the Tremont Creek wildfire jumped southeastern containment lines on Thursday.

“Ground crews, heavy equipment, water skimmers, helicopters and air tankers have been actioning the fire,” said the wildfire service in an online statement.

“Structure protection resources have been deployed to Logan Lake to assess and install structure protection equipment.”

On the eastern flanks of the already destructive White Rock Lake fire, the wildfire service braced for another tough day trying to contain the 580 square kilometre blaze.

Numerous evacuation orders imposed by several regional districts and First Nations remain in effect, in addition to the alert issued Thursday by the District of Spallumcheen as flames continue to challenge containment on the northeast flank.

“An increase in fire activity is observed across most of the fire,” the wildfire service posted Thursday, although it said containment lines were holding near Monte Lake where the fire destroyed homes and businesses as it surged north.

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Environment Canada said a heat wave gripping much of southern and coastal B-C should ease by Sunday and could be replaced by showers in some areas. But there’s concern the shift could also bring lightning, creating the potential for more wildfires.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2021.

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