KEVIN GROVES

VANCOUVER (CP) - Three B.C. families in the path of an approaching wildfire have fled their homes in a small community southeast of Cranbrook, fire information officer Tim Neal said Thursday.

Sixty firefighters and three helicopters were battling a growing, 10-square-kilometre fire at Plumbob Mountain, 10 kilometres west of Baynes Lake. An evacuation order was issued Thursday morning for four homes in the path of the blaze but one resident has so far refused to leave, said Neal. "If he doesn't want to go there's no way for us to say 'you have to go.' That's an issue for the RCMP" said Neal, adding that RCMP could only remove a resident if they interfere with firefighting.

Winds gusting up to 40 kilometres an hour were fanning flames as firefighters worked to slow the blaze.

A reception area was set up for evacuees in Baynes Lake.

Strong winds also fanned a fire in the Lamb Creek area west of Moyie Lake, driving it through a fire guard and boosting its size to about 15 square kilometres, said Neal.

Fire crews were not working on that blaze Thursday afternoon, he said, because it wasn't threatening any homes and was too volatile.

Reinforcements were dispatched to help. Fire information officer Steve Bachop said by Saturday, B.C. will have close to 900 people from out of province, or the military, assisting.

That's just less than one third of the estimated three thousand people now battling 850 fires across the province.

The B.C. Forest Service was working with the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection to prevent a 15-square-kilometre blaze in West Arm Provincial Park, northeast of Nelson, from entering the headwaters of the city's watershed.

Near Kamloops, firefighters continued to battle the 192-square-kilometre McLure-Barriere fire, now 60 per cent contained, said Bachop.

The fire is the largest of three Kamloops-area blazes that forced more than 10,000 people out of their homes. It destroyed the village of Louis Creek, about 50 kilometres north of Kamloops, leaving dozens of people homeless.

But while 823 firefighters and 12 choppers continue to battled the blaze there was still a possibility that more evacuation orders may need to be issued.

"The fire's still not contained, we've got our work cut out for us here," said Bachop.

The Interior Health Authority also rescinded a boil-water order for residents of Barriere, which was largely spared in last week's wildfires near Kamloops.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District also joined forces with other emergency services to help residents of Barriere, McLure and Louis Creek who lost everything in fires that claimed 39 houses, 26 trailer homes, 99 sheds and barns, as well as house contents.

Meanwhile, the 292-square-kilometre Chilko Lake fire, British Columbia's largest wildfire, was 100 per cent contained and now in the mop up stage, said fire information officer Kilah Whitehead.

The weather was also cooler west of Williams Lake making it unlikely that the fire will break out of the fireguard, she said.

On Thursday there were 858 fires blazing across British Columbia, 165 started by people and 682 by lightning.

The cause of the remaining 11 fires was not known, the B.C. Forest Service said.

Kelowna RCMP also confirmed that foul play was involved in the death of a person whose bones were discovered last Sunday at the scene of the Cedar Hills fire near Falkland, southeast of Kamloops.

The remains, found by a firefighter, have been sent to a lab in Vancouver to make a positive identification, Staff Sgt. Kerry Solinski said Thursday.

The Canadian Press, 2003

08/14/2003 21:02 EST