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B.C. Fires Force Evacuation Orders, Create Hazy Skies

18 fires burning more than 37,000 hectares have been flagged as a potential threat to public safety.
VANCOUVER - Residents in parts of southern British Columbia say haze from wildfires is blotting out the sun and it looks like sunset.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says gusty winds and drought conditions are hampering efforts to contain dozens of wildfires in the province.

Officials say the conditions have led to "significant growth" of some fires and forced crews to pull back from fighting some of the fires due to safety concerns.

Evacuation orders are being issued in a number of communities due to fires in the Kootenay and Central Okanagan districts, as well as the Port Hardy area.

There are dozens of wildfires burning in B.C. and 18 that are declared "fires of note" due to their potential threat to public safety are burning more than 37,000 hectares.

Vancouver woke up to hazy skies on Sunday. (Photo: Madeline Ell)

On Twitter, some people in southern B.C. say ash is falling like snowflakes.

"(It's) hard to pinpoint exactly what incident is creating the smoke that is currently blanketing large parts of the province right now," Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek told CKNW radio.

"It can also play into what the weather conditions are, if there's an inversion going on, that can also trap some of the smoke lower down on the atmosphere than normal," he added.

A fire in the East Kootenay region prompted an evacuation order near a popular vacation spot early Sunday. The order for Kragmont district went out at about 1:30 a.m., but was scaled back to an evacuation alert later in the day, which allowed people to return to their homes or campgrounds.

"We did get a little bit of rain on the fire last night, so that's meant a bit less fire activity today," said Loree Duczek with the Regional District of East Kootenay.

"We also have less wind today. It was really windy last night."

Duczek said about 150 registered at an evacuation centre in the wee hours of Sunday morning. She said even though people have been allowed to return, they could still be ordered to leave again if conditions change for the worse.

Throughout the province fire crews are battling nearly 180 wildfires.

Firefighters had to be pulled back from the Boulder Creek wildfire northwest of Pemberton on Saturday evening when conditions became unsafe. The fire service said in a news release the fire, and two others in the region, displayed a "vigorous and aggressive rate of spread," with periods of "organized crown fire."

It explained that meant the flames were consuming timber right to the tree tops, which poses a danger of sparking blazes ahead of the fire line.

The Boulder Creek wildfire tripled in size on Saturday and is now approximately 1,500 hectares, the fire service said Sunday, and some industry personnel have been evacuated.

(CKNW, The Canadian Press)

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