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B.C. considers closing wide swath of backcountry because of wildfire risk


Published on August 10, 2017

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. — British Columbia is considering closing access to a vast section of its backcountry because of the wildfire risk.

Restrictions on access to all Crown land in the Cariboo fire centre would go into effect at noon on Friday as the province continues to battle what Premier John Horgan has said is the worst fire season since the 1950s.

There were 150 fires burning in the province on Wednesday.

A final decision will be made Friday morning and will depend on wind conditions.

A restriction order would mean people cannot remain in or enter the area without the prior written authorization.

Exceptions include people who are travelling to or from their principle residence, a person acting in an official capacity or those who support efforts to fight wildfires.

The Cariboo fire centre in the province's Interior stretches from Loon Lake near Clinton in the south to the Cottonwood River near Quesnel in the north, and from Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in the west to Wells Gray Provincial Park in the east.

The area is a popular destination for hikers and campers.

Tourism officials have begun assessing the impact of the devastating wildfires on the travel sector.

Maya Lange of Destination BC, the province's tourism planning and marketing corporation, said Wednesday businesses outside the fire zones have complained of cancellations.

Most evidence of a slow down in tourism has been anecdotal and Lange said data reflecting the financial implications won't be ready for another two to three months.

But the number of tourists coming into the province week-to-week has remained on track. That may mean visitors are changing their travel plans within the province rather than cancelling their trips entirely, Lange said.

Some parts of the province have already been closed to visitors.

Jeff Leahy with BC Parks said Wednesday officials understand restrictions and closures to the backcountry and parks, especially in the hard-hit Cariboo region, can have a significant impact on businesses that rely on access to those areas.

The Canadian Press