Williams Lake, B.C., residents cleared to return home after wildfire forces evacuation – British Columbia

Thousands of people in the Williams Lake, B.C., area have been given the go-ahead to return home after wildfires forced them to flee.

An evacuation order for the city and the surrounding area was downgraded to an evacuation alert Thursday afternooon.

The order had been in place for nearly two weeks after a wildfire moved toward the city on July 15. More than 12,000 people were forced to leave their homes.

Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb said the alert means anyone who chooses to return home should be prepared to leave again on short notice should the wildfire situation change.

“We know there’s still a risk,” Cobb said. “But we can’t keep people away forever.”

Despite the warning, Cobb said he was looking forward to welcoming residents home.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

Cariboo Regional District chair Al Richmond said air quality in the region is still quite poor, and the landscape has been “profoundly affected” by the fire.

Richmond advised anyone returning home to bring basic necessities such as medications with them because services in town are still limited.

Buses to bring residents home within 48 hours

Dave Dickson with the city’s emergency support services department said buses will be arranged to bring home residents who left on buses during the initial evacuation.

The Boitanio Mall in Williams Lake will be open at 2 p.m. Thursday as a resiliency centre for returning evacuees.

Despite the lifting of the Williams Creek order, thousands are still out of their homes around the province.

The B.C. Wildfire Service is reporting 21 wildfires of note still burning in the province. An evacuation order was issued Wednesday night for Monte Lake,…

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