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B.C. saw 70 new wildfires Thursday, more lightning starts expected today

As many as 70 more expected across dry B.C. Interior, Okanagan
Helicopter carries water bucket in B.C. Wildfire Service response. (Phil McLachlan/Penticton Western News)

B.C. Wildfire crews confirmed 70 new fires in the wake of lightning storms across the B.C. Interior on Canada Day, with a similar number of new starts expected Friday with continued high temperatures and lightning.

None of the new fires has grown larger than 100 hectares, but a similar number of starts is expected to be identified Friday, Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations the B.C. Wildfire Service, told reporters in an update July 2. There were 12,000 lightning strikes recorded Thursday, after a week of record high temperatures left forest areas in dry conditions, and more lightning storms are being tracked.

The new starts bring the number of active fires in B.C. to 136, “really focused within the Southeast, Interior, Cariboo and up into the Prince George area, so a significant spread of wildfires across the province,” Chapman said.

There are more than 1,300 homes subject to local government evacuation orders as of Friday, and another 950 under alert to be ready to leave immediately. Evacuation centres for people ordered out of their homes have been established at Castlegar, Kelowna, Merritt, Kamloops and Chilliwack.

Wildfire support from other provinces has been requested and is expected to start arriving Sunday, and B.C. Wildfire Service is working with the Canadian Forces to assign aircraft “and the potential for ground forces should the season continue,” Chapman said.

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