The B.C. premier is urging vacationers to 'pack up' and 'go home' as thousands flee the Okanagan wildfires in search of accommodation.
Over the weekend, the province set up temporary accommodations in hotels and campgrounds in Kelowna, Kamloops, Oliver, Penticton, Vernon, and the surrounding area.
Premier David Eby announced Saturday afternoon that vacationers could no longer reserve spaces there to prioritize locals seeking refuge and emergency personnel.
"The goal is to free up accommodation," he said. "When you check out early, you are freeing up a hotel room for someone fleeing a wildfire, [or] a firefighter battling forest fires in the area."
The call does not impact people travelling to the area to stay in private residences.
Eby and B.C. Wildfire Service official Cliff Chapman cautioned residents to stay away from the area unless it is essential, prompting the province to call a state of emergency.
"We shouldn't need an order," said Eby. "Please stay out of these areas."
As of Saturday afternoon, over 30,000 people in the province are under evacuation orders, with an additional 36,000 facing an evacuation alert that could escalate suddenly.
"We fought 100 years' worth of fires — all in one night," West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said on Friday. "We may have another scary night tonight."
Brolund reported the blaze trapped crew members after some residents refused to evacuate. "That's a fire chief's worst nightmare."
He strongly advised the public to comply with evacuation orders.
As of writing, fire crews continue to fight several fires, primarily two in the Central Okanagan area: one along McDougall Creek and another along Clifton and McKinley on the eastern shore of Lake Okanagan.
Nicole Bonnett, a spokesperson with the B.C. Wildfire Service said to expect "aggressive" fire activity into the weekend — a sentiment also expressed by Chapman.
The out-of-control wildfires have burned 30,000 hectares across the province on Friday alone — approximately 70,000 hectares since Thursday.
The B.C. Wildfire Service forecasts high winds and dry conditions conducive to further fire growth. Chapman cited the Adams Lake wildfire, which expanded 20 kilometres in 12 hours.
Including the Greater Kelowna area, officials have also evacuated residents across the Shuswap region, with firefighters calling the Bush Creek Easy Fire "one of the most aggressive" in the province's history.
It has consumed over 41,000 hectares of land, prompting road closures between Sorrento and Chase along the Trans Canada highway.
Chapman also told reporters they had evacuated tens of thousands from West Kelowna to seek refuge in Kelowna. Many structures, including homes, have been lost to the blazes engulfing the former.
On Friday morning, Kelowna Fire Department Fire Chief Travis Whiting said Kelowna has no confirmed structural loss. "We [continue] to battle and protect every home we can."
A third fire is now reported on the east side of Okanagan Lake as embers blow across the water from the massive McDougall Creek fire. The spot-sized fire is north of Okanagan Centre Road West in Lake Country.
Two other fires also sparked on the east side of the lake overnight at McKinley Mountain and near Clifton Road.
"We're in the thick of it. This is not over," said Whiting.
B.C. currently accounts for over a third of Canada's 1,062 active fires, with over a hundred classified as out of control.
Emergency officials expect the wildfires to persist into autumn owing to drought-like conditions amid cooler temperatures.