City readies for more evacuees as weather expected to fan flames

A new wave of evacuees could arrive in the city as residents in the Williams Lake area were being urged to be ready to leave in anticipation of winds swooping through and whipping up three forest fires burning in the area.

Southwesterly winds of 10-20 km/h, temperatures in the high 20s and possibly lightning are in the forecast for Wednesday, the Cariboo Regional District said Tuesday morning.

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Evacuation alerts were in place for Williams Lake, home to about 11,000 people, and for 2,235 homes in the immediate rural area.

They will be advised to go north if the alerts are raised to orders, Robert Turner, the province's assistant deputy minister for emergency management said during a teleconference with the province's media Tuesday.

"The City of Prince George has opened up their emergency social services, they have reception centres in place, we've deployed cots and blankets from federal stocks in Edmonton and they've prepared since Saturday to receive up to 8,000 evacuees," Turner said.

As of Tuesday morning, some 2,700 evacuees from the fires to the south have registered at the reception centre in Prince George but only 215 were staying in dormitory-style accommodation at College of New Caledonia and the Northern Sport Centre.

That so few are staying at CNC and NSC is a sign of how accommodating Prince George's residents have been, said Mayor Lyn Hall.

"I'm just so proud when I hear about people who want to give up a room in their house or give up a portion of their yard so somebody can camp out," Hall said. "The magnitude of people who want to volunteer, of people who want to donate, it just doesn't end."

In addition to letting people post offers of places to stay or park their campers on the city's Facebook page, they're also welcome to post notices on a community bulletin board at the entrance to CNC.

Either way, Hall said he's confident the city has the capacity to handle the influx thanks to the abundance of empty schools at the moment, as well as the Civic Centre and the local arenas.

"We have a number of large, large facilities that we can use," Hall said.

Two fires are posing the biggest threat to Williams Lake - the 2,500-hectare Wildwood fire, just north of the city, and the 2,600-hectare 150 Mile House fire, just to the south, both zero-per-cent contained.

West of Prince George, Highway 27 connecting Vanderhoof and Fort St. James passes through an area for which an evacuation alert remains in place due to the 1,800-hectare Sutherland Road fire. The lightning-caused blaze was zero-per-cent contained as of Tuesday afternoon.

Near Quesnel, the Green Mountain fire (formerly identified as the Dragon Mountain fire) stood at 1,500 hecatres and 60 per cent contained.

The Hanceville fires, 60 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, were at 10,000 hectares, and the Gustafsen Lake fire, just west of 100 Mile House, was at 5,000 hecatres, both zero-per-cent contained.

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