NEWS
07/14/2017 12:01 EDT

B.C. fire crews brace for windy weekend, potentially worsening conditions

  • Evacuation alerts and orders from Emergency Info BC
  • Road closures and conditions from DriveBC
  • Wildfires of note from B.C. Wildfire Service
  • Air quality advisories from Environment Canada

With gusty winds on the weather forecast, this weekend could be a tough one for fire crews as they continue their battle to contain the numerous wildfires burning across B.C.'s Interior region.

The current spread of fires —  around 188 in total — took hold last Friday after a wind and lightning system started new fires across the region.

  • B.C. wildfires: frequently asked questions

A week later, the province is still under a state of emergency with nearly 16,000 people displaced from their homes and another 11,000 in WIlliams Lake are under evacuation alert. 

Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said his No. 1 priority now is Saturday afternoon, when a cold front is expected to swing across B.C. and could bring significant winds.

"We're keeping a very close eye on this moving front," he said. "We're expecting [wind] right across southern B.C."

Wind can spread wildfires further afar by lifting sparks out of previously contained zones into fresh new ones. It can also increase the size of a wildfire but increasing the flow of oxygen.  

  • 'It could get much, much worse'

Since April, wildfires have destroyed 111,000 hectares in B.C. and the province has spent $66.6 million on direct fire costs.

Good news

Though the relief of rain did not come during the week, crews did make breakthroughs in some areas of the province.

There have been no major new fires over the last 24 hours according to Skrepnek, and the evacuation alert issued for properties near Naltesby Lake, an area southwest of Prince George, was rescinded yesterday. 

And amidst reports of looters and scammers, many thousands across the province and country have arrived to fight fires or help with emergency efforts. 

The city of Prince George, for example, has welcomed over 6,200 evacuees since the emergency began.

  • B.C. wildfires: What you can do to help

Over 1,800 volunteers in the city have signed up to help at evacuation centres, and many others have opened their homes and gathered donations.

"We just have to do what we can to help," said volunteer Keith Kerrigan.

  • See our interactive map of the wildfires here