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Alert: British Columbia wildfire update

July 11, 2017

NTA tour operator member Roland Neave of Kamloops, British Columbia-based Wells Gray Tours shared the following message with NTA regarding the severe wildfires burning across the province. Email if you need assistance with re-routing tours or current advice on the situation.

DMO member Sandy Reid of Destination British Columbia also provided emergency resources for the tourism industry.

From Neave: If you have any tours travelling outside the coastal regions of British Columbia this summer, you should pay attention to the situation. Last week, after an exceptionally dry June, lightning and human carelessness caused some fires to break out in the southern interior region of British Columbia and over the weekend more fires started and expanded. We now have 220 fires burning in the province, many highways are closed, and some communities are completely evacuated. About 14,000 people are currently in evacuation centers in Kamloops (where we are located) and Prince George. Here is a link to the BC government highways website which gives you current closures.

Since you may not be familiar with the highway numbers, here is a summary: Trans Canada Highway #1 – closed west of Kamloops to Spences Bridge Cariboo Highway #97 – closed at Cache Creek through to Quesnel. This is the major north-south highway in British Columbia. Duffy Lake Road #99 — closed east of Whistler. Lots of tours use this highway from Whistler to the Cariboo Highway. Crowsnest Highway #3 (sometimes called the Hope – Princeton highway) is open but there is a major fire burning about 5 miles away at the town of Princeton. Coquihalla Highway is the main route from Vancouver to the Okanagan and rest of the southern interior and it is open. Dozens of provincial parks have been closed completely. The major one is Wells Gray Provincial Park, mainly because there is only one road in and evacuation of hundreds of tourists would be difficult. There are no fires burning in the park so this is a precautionary measure. If you have a tour on the Inside Passage ferry between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert, a very popular tour route, there are no closures along #16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George. However it is impossible to get south from Prince George without a long detour via the Yellowhead Highway or going east into Jasper. Access to the Alaska Highway is best through Alberta. In short, the northern half of British Columbia is fine, it is the south that is burning.

One route of the Rocky Mountaineer tour train is shut down and they are busing people around the Fraser Canyon section.

All the valleys in the southern interior are filled with smoke. In Kamloops today we have visibility of maybe half a mile and we cannot see across the valley. Same in the Okanagan Valley. This is a serious problem for anybody with asthma or other breathing sensitivities. For all the people coming here to see mountains and glaciers, they won’t see any until they get to the Rockies themselves. We have already cancelled one of our tours and another one may be cancelled next week, both going into the Cariboo region. Most hotels have been very cooperative and are not charging us for cancelling (and we are giving full refunds to customers).

Here is a website that is updated constantly about the fire status.

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