A wildfire was sparked in Monte Lake next to Highway 97 Wednesday. (BC Wildfire Service image)

A wildfire was sparked in Monte Lake next to Highway 97 Wednesday. (BC Wildfire Service image)

Wildfire fighting costs hit $154 million

14 new fires started on Wednesday

The province’s firefighting efforts have hit $154 million, according to chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek.

There were 14 new fires sparked on Wednesday for a total of 148 burning across B.C. currently. Since April 1, there have been 794 wildfires burning across the province.

The newest major wildfire started near Monte Lake on Wednesday and since then, rumours have swirled on whether a thrown cigarette may have sparked the blaze.

“It does appear that the fire started fairly close to Hwy. 97… but the investigation is ongoing,” said Skrepnek. The fire currently sits at 150 hectares.

“I think the speed and aggressiveness with which this fire displayed yesterday speaks to just how hot and dry conditions are out there… and how quickly these fires can grow.”

Skrepnek implored people to take precautions and fire-safe their homes.

“There’s a lot of practical things that people can do that don’t take a lot of time,” he said. “Moving woodpiles away from their houses, moving propane tanks away, spacing out trees, cleaning out gutters… basically moving any potential combustibles away from the house.”

Emergency Management BC deputy minister Robert Turner warned evacuees returning to Williams Lake to be careful and that a resilience centre will be set up to help residents adjust. Part of the evacuation order for the area was downgraded to an evacuation alert earlier Thursday.

Public safety minister Mike Farnworth echoed the warning.

“We urge continued caution,” he said.

More to come.