Update: Campers at Green Lake Provincial Park’s Sunset View, Boyd Bay and Noland Creek sites have been told to leave the park as it will be closed today, July 2, at noon due to wildfires.
David Karn, spokesperson for the B.C. ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy Communications, clarified the situation Friday, saying campers were served notice Thursday evening and Friday morning. Campers at Arrowhead and Little Arrowhead said they have been told to be ready to leave but can stay for now, while those at Emerald Bay said they were not given any notice.
Karn said ministry officials are urging people to stay away from the park at this time.
Lisa Postnikoff, of Prince George, was camping at Sunset View with her friends and family when they got the order to evacuate Friday morning. She said the campsite was pretty quiet with not a lot of ash or smoke in the air. There were a few tents and trailers in the park when they left.
“It was suggested to leave last night but it was mandatory this morning,” Postnikoff said. “We’re getting pretty used to this. This is B.C. and we have forest fires all the time.”
The park closure comes as the Sparks Lake wildfire continues to grow, reaching an estimated size of 31,000 hectares on Friday, June 2, according to a BC Wildfire Service update. The Sparks fire resulted in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District issuing an evacuation alert for the Bonaparte Plateau and portions of the Lower North Thompson region Thursday for close to 300 properties in Electoral Area E.
Brendan Young and his family passed by the Sparks Lake Fire while on their way to Emerald Bay campsite Wednesday.
“When we got here it was a thunderstorm for five hours straight. Not every couple of seconds, it was constant, always rumbling,” Young said. “The next morning there were fires all over the place from the lightning.”
The situation has been stressful, Young said, because the water bombers were flying overhead all day Thursday to take water from the lake to fight the fires. While things seemed to have calmed down on Friday, Young and his family were packing up their camp to move to Shuswap Lake. If things get worse, he said they wanted to be closer to possible escape routes.
“I just hope everyone stays safe, especially all summer. This is just the start if it’s going to stay hot and dry like this,” Young said.
Green Lake Provincial Park is also facing threats from three local fires, including a 15-hectare blaze north of Little Green Lake Road, which is considered out of control, a 0.6 ha fire five kilometres from Green Lake and 0.1 ha fire south of Green Lake - Pressy FSR.
At the Arrowhead campsite, Jasmine Brar and her friends were keeping an eye on the fire situation as they enjoyed Green Lake. Brar and her friends arrived Thursday night and pitched their tents so they could see the south side of the lake.
“We have been trying not to think about it. The lake’s been really nice, we’ve enjoyed our time here. There’s been some smoke we saw yesterday but the skies are much clearer today,” Brar said. “(As a Quesnel resident), we live with the danger of fire always so we’re ready to go if it comes to that.”
Just up the road at Little Arrowhead, Anna Francour and her family were enjoying the beach after evacuating from Sunset View. She said a park ranger came by Thursday to inform them of the wildfires burning nearby before returning and advising them to leave.
“While we were at the beach there at Sunset View they were battling two fires across the lake from us. We were watching the floater planes all day, that was phenomenal. They’d scoop in, grab their water and up they’d go, it was just like watching a circus act,” Francour said.
The grandmother said her family comes to Green Lake annually during the summer and intend to ride the fire out from their new campsite. If the evacuation mandate extended to the northside of the lake, however, she said they’re be returning home to Prince George.
Green Lake Provincial Park is among several areas in the province that have been classified as “restricted” or no-go zones. These include Chasm Provincial Park, Bonaparte Provincial Park, Emar Lakes, High Lakes, Porcupine Meadows and Lac Du Bois.
Signs have also reportedly gone up at Downing Provincial Park, near Clinton, restricting overnight camping.
The McKay Creek Fire, which started in the vicinity of the 32-kilometre mark of the West Pavilion Road, is burning at roughly 22,000 hectares and can be seen from Lillooet and Clinton.
The fire remains out of control and suspected to be human-caused. An evacuation order was issued on Thursday for a number of properties in the Pavilion Lake area, with residents being told to head to Whistler, due to the McKay Creek wildfire burning nearby.
More to come.