Campers around Harrison Lake were evacuated over the Canada Day long weekend as a human-caused fire spread quickly on the mountain-side. Plumes of smoke could be seen from kilometres away as firefighters were sent in to combat the 60-acre blaze.

“Most of the fires to date have been because of carelessness,” said Marg Drysdale of the BC Wildfire Service. “We are asking people to be cautious out there.”

By Monday, July 3, the fire doubled in size to 115-acres, leading to BC Wildfire Service to call in additional firefighters, bringing the total number to 80, with six helicopters and an air tanker for support. Threats to homes aren’t expected due to the distance between the fire and Harrison Hot Springs, which is around 30-kilometres away.

Access to the area has affected BC Wildfire Service’s ability to tackle the fire.

“Crew access to the area has been impacted by constrictions along the Harrison Lake East Forest Service Road. The road is single-lane for much of its distance, with vehicles parked on both sides of the road. In some places, the parked vehicles are preventing the passage of low beds containing heavy equipment.”

An area restriction has been issued to clear the area of recreationalists and allow free movement of equipment and staff to the fire site.

The 185-hectare Harrison Lake fire is now 20% contained, however, in a single day 56 new fires started throughout BC bringing the total number of active wildfires to over 200, many of which are considered out of control. This led the Province of British Columbia to declare a state of emergency and issue evacuation orders or alerts for Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Williams Lake and Princeton in addition to the evacuation orders and alerts issued for 100, 105 and 108 Mile House.

The extended weather forecast is calling for continued hot, dry weather, with risks of thunderstorms and lightning in many parts of British Columbia.

“Given the current wildfire situation and the expected increase in wildfire activity, the Province is taking this extraordinary measure of declaring a provincial state of emergency. This is an urgent situation and public safety is the top priority. The Province will continue to keep the public informed in this rapidly evolving situation,” stated the Province’s press release. “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 these wildfires and protect residents and their communities.”

Calm weather and light winds are expected to assist the firefighter’s efforts at Harrison Lake, but it also means caution. “We are going into a trend where we’re going to see hotter, dryer temperatures over the next few weeks. We are definitely into summer. So we are asking everybody to please be cautious,” said Marg.

Effective noon on Thursday, July 6, all outdoor wood burning fires are banned throughout the Coastal Fire Centre’s jurisdiction, including the Fraser Valley and Seabird Island. Only propane, gas or charcoal is permitted. Due to increased temperatures and no rain forecasted, the prohibition will remain in effect until October 21, unless rescinded.

To report a wildfire, call 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, go to: bcwildfire.ca.