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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

B.C. fire crews on high alert as wildfire risk climbs with lightning in forecast

VANCOUVER - The B.C. government has announced that campfires will be banned throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre starting at noon Wednesday, as the wildfire danger-rating remains high, with some parts listed at extreme.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced Monday that the ban is meant to help prevent human-caused fires and protect public safety.

Continuing warm and dry weather has caused wildfires to become aggressive in some areas.

Open fires, including industrial burning, fireworks and tiki torches are also prohibited in all B.C. parks and Crown and private lands, but not within the boundaries of local governments that have forest-fire-prevention bylaws and service from a fire department.

Nearly 70 people were forced out of their homes Sunday, as an uncontained wildfire raged in the Cariboo region west of Quesnel, B.C., but forestry officials said the Euchiniko Lakes blaze was not threatening any property.

They say the lightning-caused fire grew significantly, scorching 20 square kilometres of woodland 120 kilometres west of Quesnel since it was discovered last Tuesday.

Although homes are not in immediate danger, an evacuation order was issued Sunday for two people at the Euchiniko Lake Ranch Lodge, while 66 members of the Kluskus Indian Reserve agreed to go to Quesnel because of fears the flames could cut roads to the remote region.

Meanwhile, the eight-day-old Red Deer Creek fire, 61 kilometres southeast of Tumbler Ridge, B.C., is now estimated to cover 38 square kilometres.

The blaze has kept three evacuated oil-and-gas camps shut down.

It was 30 per cent contained on Monday.

Forestry officials are battling 63 wildfires across B.C., with 23 considered notable for their size, location or potential danger, and four, including the 62-square-kilometre Chelaslie River blaze in central B.C., listed as interface fires threatening homes or properties.

Wind and rising temperatures are complicating firefighting efforts. With lightning expected in many areas of the province, crews in all six B.C. fire centres remain on high alert.

Fire information officer Navi Saini said that so far this year, crews have responded to 502 wildfires, compared to 424 fires last year.

"Our 10-year average is around 700 fires so we are still quite below the 10-year average. But given the hot, dry conditions and high danger rating throughout the province that can change at any time," she said.

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