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BC Wildfires 2018: Fire season shaping up to be more intense than average

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Potentially dangerous wildfires continue to grow across British Columbia in a fire season that's worse than average.

And forecasts of lower temperatures could bring cold comfort for firefighters as accompanying winds may spread the flames even more.

Kevin Skrepnek with B.C.'s Wildfire Service says there are 472 active wildfires burning throughout the province — more than 30 of those considered fires of note because they are highly visible or threaten homes.

"We've got what we call fires of note in all six of our regional fire centres so really from one corner of B.C. to another," Skrepnek said. 

The fire near Telegraph Creek in northwest B.C. remains the province's largest, currently 300 square kilometres in size.

Dozens of properties around the community have been damaged or destroyed and, at B.C.'s request, the Yukon government is to open a reception centre today in Whitehorse. Officials ask evacuees to register there for emergency social services.

Although Whitehorse is more than 600 kilometres to the northwest of the fire, it's where many of the Telegraph Creek evacuees have gathered.

Higher than average fire season

Compared to a 10-year period, there are 1,500 fires so far this season when the average number would be 1,100, Skrepnek said. 

 "We've had — as of this morning — an estimated 188,000 hectares burned," Skrepnek said. "The average for this time of year is about 158,000."

But it still doesn't compare to 2017: by this time last year, we had burned over 600,000 hectares.  

Fires across the province 

Because the fires are spread across the province, Skrepnek says finding crews to fight the fires has been challenging. 

"We're typically quite nimble with our resourcing in terms of moving crews from one fire resource centre to another wherever the needs are greatest," he said. "That's definitely being stretched right now given [every region is] very, very busy at the moment and they're at their highest levels of preparedness."

He says crews have pitched in from the forest industry, outside the province and outside of the country including New Zealand, Australia and Mexico.

Weekend weather could prove challenging

Environment Canada says heat warnings in many parts of B.C. should be lifted as a cold front arrives, but that front will carry gusty winds that could kick up the flames.

"That is going to inform some of the tactics we are implementing on the ground in terms of how these fires can grow and what direction they can grow in," he said. 

Even though there is some rain in the forecast, it is expected to be patchy and scattered with the possibility of lightning — which could spark more fire. Unfortunately the central and northern parts of the province, which has a number of large, intensive fires, are expected to remain relatively dry. 

"We are bracing for the next few days to be pretty critical depending on how that pans out," Skrepnek said. 

Additional fire information

  • The Snowy Mountain wildfire near Keremeos is 122 square kilometres in size. Crews are being rotated in to provide 24-hour coverage.
  • The Verdun Mountain wildfire has grown to 11 square kilometres. On Thursday, the Bulkley-Nechako Regional District expanded the evacuation order related to the blaze. 
  • The Nadina Lake wildfire burning about 60 kilometres south of Houston is now 150 square kilometres in size. Regional officials expanded the related evacuation order and alert on Thursday.
  • The Shovel Lake wildfire, 30 kilometres northeast of Burns Lake, is 165 square kilometres. There is an expanded evacuation order and alert issued by the Bulkley-Nechako Regional District. 
  • The High Creek wildfire between Hope and Agassiz is 50 hectares in size. Crews are building helipads to get helicopters closer to the fire. 
  • The fire at Horseshoe Bay on the Sea-to-Sky Highway continues to burn. Crews have it 50-per-cent contained as of this morning. 
  • All regional parks in Metro Vancouver are under an extreme fire danger rating. Campfires and barbecues are prohibited.
  • The campfire ban across most of the province remains due to unseasonably dry and hot conditions.

Wildfire map:

Evacuation orders and alerts:

With files from the Canadian Press

Read more from CBC British Columbia

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No apologies for heckler

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Hate speech and the politics of division are creating a "dangerous path" for Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday as he vowed to steer clear of such roads and to continue calling out those who rely on "extremist" methods to make their voices heard.

Trudeau made the comments when asked whether he went too far in accusing a Quebec woman of racism and intolerance as she heckled him last week during a rally in Quebec.

During a campaign-style rally Thursday southeast of Montreal, the woman shouted questions in French at Trudeau, asking him when the federal government would repay Quebec for costs it has incurred as a result of an influx of "illegal immigrants" coming over the Canada-U.S. border.

The Quebec government has demanded Ottawa pay the full costs of social services provided to so-called irregular migrants who have crossed into Canada between established border crossings over the past couple of years — costs the province says have reached $146 million so far.

The prime minister responded to the woman by accusing her of intolerance and racism and saying her sentiments were not welcome.

At a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for a new Amazon distribution warehouse east of Ottawa, Trudeau said he fears a rise in extreme populism, particularly surrounding immigration issues, with some feeding fear and intolerance using partial truths and "outright lies."

"There has been a polarization in our political discourse," Trudeau said as construction machinery clattered in the background.

"And there are people who are trying to feed fears and intolerance for a broad range of reasons. … I will remain positive and remain pulling people together, pulling communities together right across this country."

Progressive Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau is using personal attacks to shut down criticism of his government.

"This is a calculated Liberal strategy to avoid being accountable for their record," Scheer said in a statement Monday evening. "Instead of demonizing critics, Justin Trudeau should confront the problem."

Ontario's minister responsible for immigration, Lisa MacLeod, was on hand Monday for Trudeau's news conference. It's the prime minister who is creating divisions by shouting "racism" at those who question his government's immigration policies, she said.

"I think when the prime minister, when confronted with some of the problems his government has created, turns around and fearmongers and calls people un-Canadian or racist, (he) really debases the debate that we're having."

Ontario's new Conservative government has also called on the federal government to foot the bill for services provided to asylum seekers, which that province has tallied at $200 million and climbing.

A woman who identified herself on social media as a member of the right-wing group Storm Alliance took responsibility for the confrontation with Trudeau in a post on Facebook. The group has been behind protests denouncing the arrival of asylum seekers at an irregular border crossing near St-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

"Pretty happy that I participated in him blowing a gasket," the post says.

The federal government has so far offered a total of $50 million to Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba to offset expenses incurred as a result of a spike in asylum seekers entering the country by way of unofficial entry points along the Canada-U.S. border. Of that sum, Quebec — where the bulk of the crossings have taken place — would receive $36 million.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said he hopes to persuade people that diversity is good for the province.

"If someone tells me they are worried about diversity, I will accept this worry exists and I will try to explain my point of view, that it (diversity) is something that can be very positive for our society," Couillard told reporters Monday.

The issue of irregular border crossings could become a wedge issue in the campaign leading up to the next federal election scheduled for the fall of 2019.

At an event Sunday marking Trudeau's formal nomination to run for re-election in the Montreal riding of Papineau, Trudeau emphasized the fight against extremist populism as a plank in his party's 2019 platform, and accused Scheer of exploiting fear and division.

— With files from Mylene Crete and Caroline Plante

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the confrontation with Trudeau occurred Sunday.

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Multiple victims of Bombay Bhel bombing will discuss 'plan of action' today

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Multiple victims of a bomb blast at a popular Indian restaurant in Mississauga, Ont., in late May will discuss their "plan of action" during a news conference Tuesday morning. 

They are expected to speak alongside their lawyers at 11 a.m. at Diamond and Diamond Personal Injury Lawyers in Toronto.

Peel Regional Police alleged two disguised suspects entered Bombay Bhel on the evening of May 24, planted an improvised explosive device that contained nails, then fled. Moments later, the device detonated.  

The blast wounded 15 people, three of whom suffered "critical blast injuries," according to paramedics. All have since been released from hospital. 

40 people in restaurant at time of blast

Groups of families and friends were celebrating birthdays at the restaurant, nestled in a small plaza near the intersection of Hurontario Street and Eglinton Avenue E.

Bombay Bhel is a staple for many in the Greater Toronto Area's South Asian community who dine there for a taste of home. 

About 40 people were inside the restaurant at the time, many of whom were children under 10. Witnesses described a chaotic scene of broken glass and bloodied diners.

Victims of a bomb blast at Bombay Bhel restaurant ranged in age from 23 to 69, police said. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Peel Police Chief Jennifer Evans has previously said there is no indication the bombing was a terrorist act or hate crime. Investigators have not released a motive nearly three months after the bombing and no group has taken responsibility for it. 

The bombed-out restaurant sustained a "considerable amount of damage," Evans said, and has been closed since.

Owner Mohan Nagpal declined and interview with CBC Toronto on Tuesday. He anticipates Bombay Bhel will reopen in a few weeks.  

A dedicated police task force, established to investigate the case, is looking for two suspects. Both were initially believed to be male, but investigators now say one may be female.

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Vancouver Weather: Sunny, air quality alert still in effect

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Smoke from hundreds of wildfires burning around the province is creating a thick haze over Metro Vancouver.


A seaplane takes off from the harbour as smoke from wildfires burning in the province fills the air, in Vancouver, on Monday August 20, 2018.


DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Tuesday looks like it will be another smoky day in Metro Vancouver. Environment Canada says although the forecast is mainly sunny, it’s unlikely the region will see much of it as another day of widespread smoke is expected. That thick haze will likely stick around tomorrow, but there may be some improvement on Thursday. Tuesday’s temperature highs are 23 C and 30 C inland. The agency is continuing its air quality advisory for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter from the hundreds of wildfires burning around the province and in the U.S.

Elevated levels of fine particulate matter are expected to persist until there is a change in fire or weather conditions. The agency warns particulate matter can get inside your home, so they are advising people keep their windows closed.

People with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.


Weather: Vancouver, B.C.

Today: Mainly sunny. Widespread smoke. High 23 C except 30 C inland. Humidex 28. UV index 7 or high.

Tonight: Partly cloudy. Widespread smoke. Low 16 C.

Tomorrow: A mix of sun and cloud. Widespread smoke. High 22 C except 28 C inland. Humidex 27. UV index 7 or high.

Source: Environment Canada


Traffic: Lower Mainland

Here’s a live traffic map of what’s happening across the region’s roads. Use command + scroll to zoom in and out.


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