25 days and counting: For people in B.C.’s wildfire zone, Trudeau’s trip offers little relief – British Columbia

After several days of milder temperatures and with some evacuation orders finally lifted, there was some hope that B.C.’s historic wildfire season would have a reprieve. 

So much for that. 

On Saturday, the Elephant Hill fire exploded again in size, crossing a river and forcing evacuation orders for an area seven times the size of Vancouver. 

On Sunday, an evacuation order was expanded to a large rural area west of Quesnel again, making the evacuation zone there approximately half the size of Prince Edward Island. 

The number of evacuees across B.C. is down. But the number of wildfires of note isn’t going down, and many are still precariously close to urban centres.   

“Weather’s been our biggest challenge across the board on all these fires,” said Kevin Skrepnek, B.C.’s chief fire information officer. 

“We had a relatively quiet week up until this point — low wind, low heat — but that changed yesterday.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau enters the wildfire zone for the first time, meeting with emergency officials and others in Williams Lake.

This isn’t a normal arrival to a disaster by a prime minister — but then again, this isn’t a normal type of wildfire situation. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in Revelstoke, B.C., on Saturday, at a Canadian Red Cross fundraiser for victims of wildfires in B.C. (CBC)

Mixed feelings in town 

There are two time-tested options when a national leader enters a natural disaster zone: show up in the heat of the crisis to sympathize with evacuees and reassure frontline workers, or come at the end to praise the work of all involved.

Neither situation is in play here.

Several days after the evacuation order was lifted, Williams Lake is returning to some semblance of normalcy, with pubs full of people and grocery store aisles packed. The total number of evacuees in B.C. has decreased from over 45,000 to around 6,000. 

But this isn’t a celebratory trip for Trudeau either:…

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