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Smoky conditions help B.C. fire fight, cause Metro Vancouver air advisory

Amount of smoke “tough” but it reduced the sun’s intensity, which helps firefighters
British Columbia’s desperate battle against hundreds of wildfires continues on multiple fronts today, but no new evacuation orders have been added overnight to the thousands already in place across the province. Smoke from wildfires fills the air in Kelowna, B.C., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The BC Wildfire Service says weather across British Columbia will be impacted by a hurricane in Southern California, challenging firefighters already battling hundreds of fires that forced 30,000 people from their homes and caused a provincial state of emergency.

It says the Bush Creek East wildfire in the Columbia Shuswap region, which merged and encompassed the Adams Lake wildfire this weekend, is now about 410 square kilometres in size.

The Service warns that Hurricane Hilary is expected to bring 20 kilometre per hour winds moving east across the province, with gusts up to 40 kilometres per hour.

But, it says wildfire smoke may help temper the flames as 2 to 3 millimetres of rain is forecast in the region tonight.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is closely monitoring the fires in B.C. and the Northwest Territories, noting that will be a main topic at his cabinet retreat this week.

He says the federal government is also hosting another Incident Response Group meeting in P.E.I. to make sure Ottawa is doing “everything necessary to keep people safe” and coordinating with provinces.

Trudeau says federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan will be attending that meeting virtually from B.C., where he is leading the federal efforts for the province.

“Canadians from coast to coast to coast are watching in horror the images of apocalyptic devastation and fires going on in communities that so many of us know and so many of us have friends,” Trudeau said Monday. “This is a scary and heartbreaking time for people.”

This comes after Environment Canada issued air quality advisories for much of southern B.C., warning about the risk of particulates in the air from wildfire smoke.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District, which issued an air quality advisory on Sunday, is recommending people, especially those with underlying health conditions, postpone or reduce outdoor physical activity, especially if breathing feels uncomfortable

There are more than 380 active wildfires burning in B.C., including the 110-square-kilometre McDougall Creek fire burning on both sides of Lake Okanagan.

After crews were able to make progress fighting the fire on Sunday, Kelowna Fire Chief Travis Whiting told a press conference crews will be taking advantage of good weather to go into neighbourhoods and extinguish fires around homes and create a “guard.”

Whiting said that while the amount of smoke in the air has been “tough” it is reducing the sun’s intensity, which helps in the fight.

He said he expects they’ll be able to start reaching out to evacuees over the next few days to inform them if their homes have survived the fire.

There is no official count of how many homes have been destroyed, but officials have acknowledged damage is “significant.”

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