Residents prepare after evacuation alert

For nearly two weeks, the persistant Mount Hicks wildfire has been raging along a steep hillside 10 kilometres north of Agassiz while crews fight to contain its path in hot, dry conditions.

On Friday night, strong outflow winds fanned the blaze westward by 25 hectares, prompting an evacuation alert Sunday afternoon for properties along Kamp Road, north of Seabird Island Road and Wahleach Road.

Kamp Road resident Maaike Verkade, her husband and two cats live in a rented home on a farm at the north end of the road.

“It’s a little bit scary. There’s a lot of smoke and they are busy with the helicopters right now, but over at the other end of the road,” Verkade said. Her family was issued an evacuation alert Sunday afternoon, when District personnel came to their door with a warning to be ready to go.

Verkade said they have since brought belongings to their daughter’s home outside Agassiz and have packed up their trailer in case an evacuation order comes.

“[The alert] was a little bit unsettling but now we are preparing and we are okay with it. We have places to go and we are packing up our stuff and will see what happens.”

Read More: Fraser Valley fire departments form ‘strike teams’ to combat wildfires

Read More: Smoky skies fill eastern Fraser Valley as Mount Hicks fire continues to burn

An alert is not an evacuation order. Alerts asks residents to be prepared to leave on short notice – packing vital items and preparing transportation and accommodation if possible. Alerts and orders are hand-delivered by the District to impacted properties.

An evacuation order asks residents to leave immediately, following the direction of local emergency officials and using identified routes to exit the area. Those who need additional support in the event of an evacuation can go to the Agassiz Fire Hall, where an emergency reception centre will be opened.

Anyone with questions or concerns on alerts or orders in their area is encouraged to call the District of Kent or the Agassiz Fire Hall non-emergency line at (604) 796-2614.

As of Tuesday, the fire is an estimated 207 hectares and is 30 per cent contained. BC Wildfire Service has 41 firefighters, five helicopters and one piece of heavy equipment on site, securing power lines and containing the fire along the roadside and west flank.

According to a public notice from the District of Kent [DOK], outflow winds are expected to remain in the area through early in the week – a determining factor in the fire’s behaviour.

DOK mayor John Van Laerhoven told the Observer that DOK’s Emergency Operations Centre will continue to provide updates on the fire to residents as quickly as possible and is communicating with BC Wildfire regularly.

“The [centre] bases a lot of their evaluations on what they hear from the wildfire branch, the people with their feet on the ground,” he said. “The wildfire crew is working hard at getting this fire contained and hopefully within not too many days we’ll get a change in weather that will help out as well.”

The human-caused fire continues to require the intermittent closure of Highway 7 to improve access for crews and aircrafts. Motorists are encouraged to use Highway 1 as a detour.

Sasquatch Provincial Park was closed Aug. 11 and will remain closed until at least Aug. 20, when BC Parks will reassess the closure.

Read More: Air quality in Lower Mainland to hit ‘extreme risk’ as wildfire smoke settles in

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