B.C. has lifted non-essential travel restrictions for all but one community.
Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said the emergency order restricting non-essential travel “had the effect required” and as of Wednesday morning (Aug. 23) the travel restrictions were lifted for Kelowna, Kamloops, Oliver, Osoyoos, Penticton and Vernon, but non-essential travel restrictions remain for West Kelowna.
The McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna is an estimated 12,270 hectares.
Ma said because of the travel order, thousands of hotel rooms were made available for evacuees and fire crews who required housing. She expressed her “deepest gratitude” to those everyone who cancelled their travel plans, as well as to the tourism industry.
“Working with our local government and First Nation partners, we continue to place in people into the accommodations that are now available and we are also blocked booking additional available rooms in the event that they are needed.”
She added that visitors should be thoughtful about where they go, and that communities such as Lake Country and the Shuswap are indicating that now is not the time to come visit.
It was on Saturday that B.C. issued an order banning non-essential travel to six fire-affected communities. That order came the day after Premier David Eby declared a provincial state of emergency.
Ma and Forests Minister Bruce Ralston provided an update Wednesday (Aug. 23) on the current wildfire situation. They were joined by BC Wildfire Service operations director Cliff Chapman and other officials from the two ministries.
She added that more than 25,000 people remain on evacuation order and another 37,000 are on alert.
“That is 25,000 People who have been forced out of their home due to wildfire and 37,000 more people who must be prepared to leave their home at a moment’s notice.”
It come as evacuation orders and alerts are set to be downgraded in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country.
Parts of B.C. did receive some rain in the last 24 hours, but Ralston said British Columbians should remain prepared.
He said said that while wildfires have dominated much of the province’s attention over the last few days, B.C. is still experience a very serious drought. Much of the province is “very, very dry” and still at risk of fires.