Forest fire season winding down in B.C.

Campfires are allowed in most areas as the Labour Day weekend approaches, most evacuation alerts lifted

Paulson Pass fire northeast of Christina Lake. Evacuation alerts were lifted Monday for Grand Forks and Christina Lake

Campfire bans have been lifted for most of B.C. heading into the Labour Day weekend, and rain in most areas of the province has helped crews make progress on most of the 176 fires burning in B.C. as of Monday.

Campfire bans are lifted in the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres, although restrictions continue on use of burn barrels and fireworks. No fire bans remain across northern B.C., and the only remaining campfire ban is in the Cariboo fire centre for areas west of the Fraser River.

Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer for the B.C. Wildfire Service, cautioned that areas of high and extreme fire danger remain in the Chilcotin, South Thompson River valley and the southern part of the Prince George fire centre. But continued cool weather and showers this week offer some relief for communities and firefighters.

“Just about all our major fires took at least a little bit of rain over the weekend, and this has certainly made some significant progress,” Skrepnek said.

Some of the most threatening fires have eased. Evacuation orders for the Testalinden Creek fire near Oliver were downgraded to alerts Monday, and alerts were lifted for Grand Forks and Christina Lake as B.C. and U.S. crews made progress on the Stickpin fire burning near the border in Washington.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary lifted evacuation alerts Monday for the Rock Creek fire, which previously damaged or destroyed 30 homes.

The B.C. Wildfire Service responded to seven new fires over the weekend, some suspected to be human caused.

Total cost and damage for the 2015 forest fire season continues to track at a similar pace as last year, with 296,000 hectares burned and $255 million spent as of Monday. That’s above the 10-year average for B.C. fires, but lower than the worst seasons in recent years, in 2003 and 2009.