B.C. wildfires close courthouses in interior of province

B.C. wildfires close courthouses in interior of province
Wildfires are seen near 100 Mile House in British Columbia. Photo credit: Reuters
The Provincial Court of British Columbia has announced that court locations in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake are closed due to the wildfire activity in the area.

According to a provincial website dedicated to updating the public on the latest wildfire news, there are a few wildfires in the Cariboo Regional District, where the courthouses are located, that are cause for concern.

The estimated 2,600-hectare 150 Mile House fire is being categorized as a “wildfire of note,” defined as blazes that are “highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety.” As of Tuesday afternoon, the wildfire was listed as active and zero-per-cent contained, and located just south of Williams Lake. As of this morning, Williams Lake is still under an evacuation alert as the weather remains dry and windy. 100 Mile House was evacuated and officials say it will likely remain so for at least another week, due to another fire — the estimated 5,000-hectare Gustafsen wildfire, currently also active and zero-per-cent contained, burning just west of 100 Mile House.

“Like a lot of businesses in the area, we have had to close our office and most of the employees have been evacuated,” says Leigh Pedersen, partner at Morelli Chertkow LLP. The firm has offices in Kamloops, B.C. as well as in Williams Lake.

While Pederson stresses that the primary concern is for the personal safety of everyone in the affected areas, he says, “We have taken steps to try and safeguard any potential losses that could occur if our office should be completely lost to the fire.

“It is all very scary,” he adds.

The announcement from the provincial court states that family and criminal court appearances that were scheduled for the 100 Mile House Courthouse on July 10 “have been or are in the process of being adjourned” while family matters scheduled for that date have been adjourned to the next family remand day, Aug. 14, “unless otherwise addressed” with the judicial case manager. Criminal matters that were scheduled for July 11 are in the process of being adjourned to Aug. 15, unless otherwise addressed with the JCM.

The situation will be monitored and status updates are available on the provincial court website.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia — which is “co-located” with the provincial court in Williams Lake — also issued an update on its website stating that the Supreme Court registry in Williams Lake is closed for the remainder or the week, and all proceedings scheduled for hearing have been adjourned.

Wildfires in the interior region of the province have been burning since July 7, sparked by lightning in dry electrical storms. Reuters reports high temperatures and winds complicated firefighting efforts and officials are still struggling to get the blazes under control.

The province declared a state of emergency July 8, and there are now 215 wildfires burning across B.C. with 21 of them on the radar as wildfires of note.

According to reports, as of this morning, the number of evacuees due to the wildfires has reached 16,000. No injuries or deaths have been reported, and provincial officials say they don’t know the extent of the damage as of yet. People who were evacuated said they had to leave behind farm animals and watch the destruction of their homes and other buildings. The federal government has offered help and firefighters from across the country have joined in the fight to control the wildfires.

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