The second-largest city in B.C.’s East Kootenay region has been placed on evacuation alert as wildfires fed by strong, unpredictable winds become more intense in several areas of the province.
All of Kimberley, B.C. — accounting for around 7,425 people — must now be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
West of the city, an evacuation order already in place affects 65 properties in the St. Mary’s Valley.
The emergency operations center in Cranbrook, B.C., is putting together a plan in case the Meachan Creek fire gets too close to Kimberley.
The community is fairly spread out, stretching a fair distance along a windy highway that ends at a large ski hill and golf resort.
On Friday, Interior Health said its staff has started evacuating patients from care homes in Kimberley as a precaution.
Further north, Highway 93 South through Kootenay National Park may be impacted by wildfire smoke this weekend. Traffic has been reduced to 50 km/h through the area of the Wardle wildfire.
Officials are also watching the Shovel Lake fire, which has prompted evacuation orders or alerts from Fraser Lake all the way north to Fort St. James in north-central B.C.
The B.C. Wildfire Service has warned of the potential for extreme fire activity on that blaze and several others in the region between Quesnel, Prince George and almost as far west as Kitimat.
Increased fire activity is also predicted throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre on Friday as lifting smoke means temperatures will climb and humidity will drop.
Nearly 600 wildfires are currently burning across the province, with 50 of them considered to be highly visible or threats to people and property.
Air-quality advisories remain in effect across much of Western Canada due to smoke.