Frefighter lights a backburn during operations in the Southern Interior. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

Wildfire threat eases, light rain expected Thursday

Only four new starts Tuesday as B.C. Interior battle continues

The B.C. Wildfire Service has a total of 140 fires on its active map as of Wednesday, and is making progress containing some of the larger fires that threaten communities.

The fire total is down from previous weeks, with only four new starts reported Tuesday.

“That’s certainly a lower number than we’ve seen in the last week or week and a half, so that’s certainly welcome, but there is definitely still a lot of active fire on the landscape,” said Kevin Skrepnek of the B.C. Wildfire Service in an update Wednesday afternoon.

Rain showers are expected across southern B.C. Thursday, but B.C. Wildfire Service officials aren’t getting their hopes up that it will ease the situation as hot weather is expected to return for the weekend.

There are 35,800 people registered with the Red Cross as evacuees as of Wednesday, said Robert Turner with Emergency Management B.C.

The B.C. government has extended the provincial state of emergency, due to expire Friday at midnight, for an additional two weeks. That means people who are still on evacuation and registered with the Red Cross are eligible for a second payment of $600 per household for each two weeks they remain out of their homes.

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The evacuation order for Cache Creek was downgraded to an alert Tuesday to allow people to return, but there are still restrictions on entry to the firefighting area, Skrepnek said. Cache Creek residents are cleaning fire retardant from some buildings, which is similar to fertilizer once dried and washes off with water and mild detergent.

The Hanceville-Riske Creek fire complex, southwest of Williams Lake, still had no containment as of Wednesday, but Skrepnek said heavy equipment was making good progress building fuel-free barriers to the north and northwest. It was estimated at 1,250 square kilometres.

The White Lake fire, which jumped the Fraser River Saturday and triggered the evacuation of Williams Lake due to concern about road access, was 10 per cent contained as of Wednesday and estimated at 81 square kilometres. That’s down from the previous estimate of 120 square kilometres, mostly due to more accurate mapping after smoke cleared, Skrepnek said.

The Elephant Hill fire, formerly called the Ashcroft Reserve fire, was estimated at 526 square kilometres, and 30 per cent contained.