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Storms throw wet blanket over B.C. blazes, but wildfires likely to return

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Heavy rain showers over the past 24 hours have wiped out any imminent wildfire danger across British Columbia, although it's expected to be only a temporary reprieve.

Provincial fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek, at the Wildfire Co-ordination Centre in Kamloops, said on Thursday that concern remains for the Chilcotin, Kamloops and southeastern regions of the province. But most wildfire warnings will likely be downgraded soon, he said.

"With the rain that came through we have seen a very significant shift in the fire danger across the province," he said.

He said the low-pressure system that's brought gusty, stormy conditions into the province on Wednesday put a dent in most active fires, but hot-and-dry conditions are expected to return next week.

The downpours have also helped rescind a number of fire evacuation orders and alerts.

The Wildfire Management Branch said all evacuation orders and alerts have been dropped for the Smith Creek fire, which forced about 2,500 from their West Kelowna homes last week.

Evacuations were also rescinded for the Jura fire, west of Princeton-Summerland, Apex Mountain, and the Maka-Murray fire, in the Thompson-Nicola region.

An evacuation order was also lowered to an alert for residents near the Botanie Road fire on private land, north of Lytton.

Skrepnek said that because the majority of fires are human-caused, he's cautioning the public about lighting campfires, sparking fires from vehicle-exhaust pipes and discarding cigarettes.

"The biggest message we want to emphasis is we don't want the public getting complacent just because we've had this dump of rain," he said. "We don't want people, a week down the road, thinking that there isn't still a very real and present danger of wildfires."

On Wednesday, flash floods washed over roads and into basements, scattering debris across Kamloops, B.C., when thunder showers soaked the city in 25 millimetres of rain in less than 30 minutes.

There have so far been 678 fires across the province since the fire season started April 1, with this July being called the most active fire month since 2010.

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