WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. - As wildfires continue to rage in B.C., a city-wide evacuation alert has been issued for Williams Lake.
According to the city, the alert was issued in response to weather forecasts that show conditions could have the potential to push fires to the West of Williams Lake towards the city at a rapid pace. Parts of 100 Mile House have also been told to be ready to evacuate.
An evacuation alert is a notification of potential danger. It does not mean residents must evacuate but should be prepared to evacuate with short notice.
Earlier this month Todd Stone, B.C.'s minister of transportation and infrastructure, announced a provincial state of emergency to ensure a co-ordinated response to the current wildfire situation and to ensure public safety.
Evacuation alerts and orders have already been issued for Ashcroft, Cache Creek and Princeton. Little relief appears to be in sight with the extended weather forecast calling for continued hot, dry weather, with risks of thunderstorms in many parts of the province.
"This is an urgent situation and public safety is the top priority," reads a release from the provincial government. "The province will continue to keep the public informed in this rapidly evolving situation."
The state of emergency gives agencies such as Emergency Management BC, the Fire Commissioner, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the RCMP authority under the Emergency Program Act to take every action necessary to fight the wildfires and protect residents and their communities.
So far the more than 200 fires don't appear to have caused any deaths or serious injuries, but provincial officials stated that about 38,000 hectares have been damaged and 14,000 people had been forced to evacuate their homes.
According to media reports, the fires are beginning to take an economic toll on forestry, milling and mining operations. Norbord says it shut down its wood panel mill in 100 Mile House. The mill produces oriented strand board, a type of plywood substitute typically used for building houses.
Imperial Metals Corp. in Williams Lake has reduced its operations at the Mount Polley open pit copper and gold mine.
- with files from The Canadian Press