The South Okanagan is under a blanket of smoke — and, as of Friday evening, under a provincial state of emergency.
The province made the extraordinary declaration as it deals with an expected increase in wildfires.
On Friday alone, the province noted, 56 new wildfires started throughout the province. Evacuation alerts and orders have been issued for Ashcroft, Cache Creek and Princeton.
An extended weather forecast is calling for continued hot, dry weather, with risks of thunderstorms in many parts of the province.
“This is an urgent situation and public safety is the top priority,” the Province said. “The Province will continue to keep the public informed in this rapidly evolving situation.”
The state of emergency gives agencies such as Emergency Management BC, the Fire Commissioner, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the RCMP authority under the Emergency Program Act to take every action necessary to fight these wildfires and protect residents and their communities.
The last time the Province declared a state of emergency was in August 2003 to deal with wildfires.
Although no wildfires are burning in the South Okanagan, the Osoyoos sky is clouded with smoke. A fire about 100 km to the west, just north of Princeton was estimated at 200 hectares Friday evening and is growing quickly.
The fire has shut down Hwy. 5A about 10 km northeast of Princeton and forced the evacuation of 54 properties.
Air support and heavy equipment are on site, as well as 30 BC Wildfire Service firefighters. The Princeton Fire Department is also assisting.
Other fires of note in the BC Interior are burning near Kamloops, west of that city near Ashcroft and north near 100 Mile House.