Aerial view south of Williams Lake Friday afternoon shows dry lightning storm passing over, leaving fire starts behind. Lightning sparked more than 100 new fires Friday. (Black Press)

VIDEO: More than 180 wildfires burning across B.C.

Firefighters from other provinces called in to assist

More than 180 fires are burning across the province, forcing thousands of British Columbians to evacuate their homes with dozens of properties and buildings being destroyed.

That’s according to the BC Wildfire Service, as firefighters and emergency crews deal with fires ranging from 1 hectare to 4,000 hectares in size.

Forests Minister John Rustad said the federal government is standing by to assist, with military or other resources if necessary. Requests have gone out to other provinces for forest firefighters and more personnel should start arriving by Monday or Tuesday, Rustad said.

“As of Thursday night there were 12 new fires,” Rustad said. “On Friday, because of the dry lightning predominantly, we ended up with an additional 142 new fires.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said RCMP officers have been called in from the Lower Mainland to help, with police and fire personnel having to go door to door with little or no notice to tell people to evacuate. More police can come in from outside the province if necessary, Morris said.

A campfire ban is in place in the Cariboo region and may be extended to the Prince George region next. Rustad urged people camping over the weekend not to use campfires due to generally dry conditions and a forecast of continued hot weather.

In addition to evacuation orders or alerts for residents at Ashcroft, Princeton. Cache Creek, Quesnel and Williams Lake, communities of Canim Lake, Anahim Lake, Alexis Creek First Nation, Alexandra First Nation and Williams Lake First Nation have been affected.

Premier-designate John Horgan discussed the situation with Rustad Saturday morning, and said he is ready to assist.

“The people already evacuated or facing evacuation, as well as our front-line firefighters and first responders, need to know everyone in the province is behind them,” Horgan said.

Four major fires are blazing across regions in the Southern Interior, prompting a provincial state of emergency to be declared Friday evening.

Crews are battling a 2,000-hectare blaze in Princeton and a 1,800-hectare fire near 100 Mile.

The Village of Cache Creek has been evacuated, and Ashcroft residents are under an evacuation alert as that fire reaches 4,000 hectares. There are reports of gasoline shortages, and areas including Ashcroft where there is no electricity to operate gas stations and other services.

Several areas of Williams Lake has also been evacuated, as three fires surround the city.

The entire region of the southern Interior is under an air quality advisory, due to the smoke.

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