Up to 37,000 people out of their homes because of wildfires: province - 660 NEWS
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Up to 37,000 people out of their homes because of wildfires: province

Smoke and fire is visible along Highway 20 to Williams Lake on July 16, 2017. (Treena Wood, NEWS 1130 Photo)

At least 160 wildfires are burning in the province, 14 of which pose a direct threat to communities

WILLIAMS LAKE (NEWS 1130) – The province estimates between 36,000 and 37,000 people have been displaced by wildfires burning across British Columbia for more than a week.

162 fires, including 27 fires of note, are burning now. 2,900 people are fighting the fires, with 203 aircraft assisting ground crews.

In Williams Lake, thousands of people have been forced from their homes after an evacuation order was issued for that city and surrounding areas last night.

Many of Williams Lake’s 11,000 people left voluntarily, however the order means thousands more were being forced to evacuate the area.

Andrea Moleschi is one of those ordered out of their homes on Saturday.

“I don’t want to go, my memories are here.”

She and the rest of her family took what they could before heading south.

“I packed all my mementos, pictures, my marriage certificate, my wills, everything. House insurance,” she says. “We have only one way to go, and that’s south to Kamloops.”

Another 27,000 people in the Interior have been told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Last night, MP Todd Doherty told evacuees already in Prince George to pressure others still in Williams Lake to get to safety.

“If you are talking to your family, if you’re talking to your friends and your neighbours in the Williams Lake area, as I am, still trying to get my mum and relatives out of that area, very stubborn, it’s very stressful. We need them to evacuate, we need them to be safe, we need all of you to be safe.”

While addressing evacuees in Prince George last night, John Massier, vice-chair of the Cariboo Regional District, noted two-thirds of the Cariboo region is under evacuation alert or evacuation order.

“A lot of those people will be heading south from Williams Lake and areas around it, through Little Fort and south. Some of them will probably be coming up here. I just want to thank you again for all the hospitality you’ve shown us here in Prince George. I think we’re going to be your guests for a little bit longer, til we get a little break from Mother Nature,” he says.

Meanwhile, some homes have been destroyed by fire along Okanagan Lake. An evacuation order is in effect in Lake Country.

Central Okanagan Emergency Operations says 10 structures have been damaged by the flames. Firefighters from Kelowna and Peachland are among those helping out. The fire is reportedly about 80 per cent contained.

An evacuation centre has opened up in Kelowna for the evacuees from Lake Country.