Coquihalla Highway as seen on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. The Highway 5 route was closed Sunday due to the July Lake wildfire burning on both sides of the main artery. (Drive BC photo)

Coquihalla Highway as seen on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. The Highway 5 route was closed Sunday due to the July Lake wildfire burning on both sides of the main artery. (Drive BC photo)

Tourists should not travel to Okanagan as region up in flames: Public Safety Minister

‘If you are planning to travel through these fire-affected areas, it’s time to change your plans’

As wildfires rage in B.C.’s Interior, the province’s public safety minister has one directive for summer travellers with upcoming vacation plans: Do not travel to fire-affected areas for non-essential reasons.

The province’s wildfire situation has escalated in recent days, as high winds reaching 70 km/h and droughts push major fires towards communities in the Okanagan, sparking evacuation alerts in Merritt, parts of Kamloops and West Kelowna.

On Sunday night, the Coquihalla Highway was forced to close due to the July Lake wildfire conjoining with the Brooke Creek blaze and burning on both sides of the main artery connecting the Thompson-Nicola and Okanagan regions with the Lower Mainland.

“If you are planning to travel through these fire-affected areas, it’s time to change your plans,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said in a news conference Monday (Aug. 16).

ALSO READ: Conditions at Mount Law, White Rock Lake fires remain volatile

ALSO READ: Rain forecasted for the Okanagan, likely not enough to make a dent in wildfires

Thousands of people have been told to flee their homes or remain on evacuation alerts, prepared to leave at a moments notice.

“We are in for a challenging fight in the coming days,” Farnworth said.

Forecasts do show signs of rain, but likely not enough to dampen the raging blazes which have led to thick smoke and falling ashes.

The BC Wildfire Service says nearly 270 wildfires are currently burning in all corners of the province and many – including the blaze that destroyed the Village of Lytton in June and a 31,600-hectare fire west of Prince George – continue to put homes and properties at risk.

More to come.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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B.C. Wildfires 2021