The government of British Columbia announced on Tuesday that it would largely lift travel restrictions to the province’s wildfire-hit interior. The restrictions, which barred non-essential travel to communities including Kelowna, Vernon, and Kamloops, were set to expire at midnight. However, the measure will remain in place for West Kelowna.
This decision comes as rain and cooler weather have helped in holding back blazes across western Canada. The country is currently in the midst of its worst wildfire season on record, with over 50,000 people, including the entire population of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, being forced to evacuate their homes.
While nearly 200 homes in Kelowna and West Kelowna were burned by the flames, conditions have slowly been improving, although smoke still blankets the province. West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund expressed optimism, stating that he feels they are turning the corner on the fire.
The travel restrictions were put in place over the weekend to free up accommodation for evacuees and emergency services. British Columbia Premier David Eby highlighted the collaborative efforts with the federal government, First Nations, and others on recovery, emphasizing that the recovery process had already begun.
Premier Eby, during his visit to the areas worst-hit by the wildfires, mentioned that active fires were still burning close to many homes. Meanwhile, in the Northwest Territories, there was some relief as firefighters protecting Yellowknife received help from rain, reducing the likelihood of the blaze reaching the city in the next few days. However, officials warned of the challenging days ahead for the communities of Hay River and Fort Smith due to rising temperatures expected to increase fire activity.
The lifting of the travel restrictions in British Columbia’s wildfire-hit interior is a positive development, as it indicates progress in containing the blazes and allows for a return to normalcy for the affected communities.