British Columbians are being urged to comply with evacuation orders and alerts, and to stay out of the backcountry as high winds are expected to increase aggressive fire behaviour, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell said today.
"A cold front is expected to work its way through the province tomorrow morning, bringing strong, gusty winds, lightning and little precipitation throughout the day tomorrow and into Thursday," said Bell. "We have a lot of uncontained large fires burning in the Northwest, Cariboo and Prince George regions. When you add strong winds, it makes an already difficult situation that much worse."
Strong winds will fuel existing fires and lightning may spark new fires. In addition, strong winds may prevent air operations and heavy smoke may impair the ability of ground crews to respond.
"Given the challenge our firefighters are expected face over the next few days, we need everyone to do their part. The public needs to be aware to the challenge ahead, particularly in the Northwest, Cariboo and Prince George regions," said Bell. "If it isn't critical for you to go out into the backcountry in these areas, please don't go. Please stay out of isolated areas and follow evacuation orders or alerts. If you ignore the advice of safety officials and get into trouble, we may not be able help."
RCMP and response agencies also remind the public that failure to comply with evacuation orders not only puts you and your family at risk, it puts the lives of emergency personnel in danger. Local authorities and emergency officials only ask people to leave their homes and designated areas when the need is clear and their safety cannot be guaranteed.
RCMP officers enforce evacuation orders issued by local government authorities. Under the Emergency Program Act, police can detain and lay charges against those who violate emergency orders in situations where violators withhold their identity from police. In these cases, RCMP officers can also transport them out of the area subject to evacuation order.
When evacuating, drivers, by law, must slow down and move over for the safety of emergency personnel working on or adjacent to roadways. Drivers must slow to 70 km/h where the speed limit is 80 km/h or higher, and to 40 km/h where the limit is below 80 km/h, when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle that has lights flashing.
If there is another lane going in the same direction, drivers must also move into that lane if it is safe to do so. Penalties for failing to comply with either or both requirements include both a fine and three penalty points.
For the latest information on wildfire activity, conditions and prohibitions, visit www.firesafebc.ca
You can also follow the latest wildfire news on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BCGovFireInfo
and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/BCForestFireInfo
If you see smoke or flames, please call *5555 on your cellphone, or call toll-free to 1 800 663-5555.