Protesters have tried to bypass an RCMP blockade on the Trans-Canada Highway in British Columbia's Shuswap region, amid tensions over the refusal of some residents to obey wildfire evacuation orders.
Live social media videos of the incident posted Wednesday evening show about 20 protesters confronting a blockade of police cars near the lakeside community of Sorrento.
They tell officers they do not believe politicians have the right to prevent them using the road, and that it is illegal for the RCMP to block it.
The group, which organized itself on Facebook, had hoped to rally enough support to push through the closure to enter the evacuation zone, saying they planned to support property owners still fighting fires inside.
The group dispersed after about an hour without any reports of violence.
BC Wildfire Service crews in the area are fighting the 410-square-kilometre Bush Creek East fire that has destroyed an unknown number of properties and triggered evacuation orders covering about 11,000 people.
"This is a warning to all you Canadians out there, this is what's coming," says one man after confronting police in a video of the Sorrento incident, referring to the police blockade at the intersection of Blind Bay Road.
Tensions have been mounting in the Shuswap which is one of the hardest-hit areas in B.C.'s wildfire fight.
About 370 fires were burning across the province Thursday including 14 "wildfires of note" that are highly visible or pose a threat to people or property. To the south of the Shuswap, fires around Lake Okanagan have destroyed or damaged about 200 homes.
Wildfire service information officer Forrest Tower said Wednesday that people have the right to choose to stay on private property, but asked those still in evacuation zones to communicate with the service.
He says there are ways they can potentially "work together," including hiring residents as emergency firefighters if they have a "base level" of training and safety certifications.
"We have gone as far as that, and it works very well," Tower told a news conference.
"There's the option to just be more involved in our operational activities. It just comes back to communication and the willingness at some level to take direction from someone in BC Wildfire."
B.C. Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said Wednesday the BC Wildfire Service had "opened a dialogue" to understand why some are defying the orders, but the directives carry legal weight and defiance of them must end.
She said some local residents with skills to help battle fires are being recruited now to join the wildfire fight, but others must leave.
Firefighting efforts in the region have been aided by ample rain that fell Tuesday and Wednesday over the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.
Tower noted one weather station near the eastern edge of the Bush Creek East wildfire near Chase received about 20 millimetres of rain in the past day. He said varying amounts of rainfall were also recorded on the wildfire's western edge, which reached more than 15 millimetres, leading to a widespread reduction of fire behaviour.
Environment Canada had issued a severe thunderstorm watch late Tuesday for the Shuswap region with Salmon Arm recording 12 millimetres of rain on that day, the biggest single-day total all year. Those alerts have now been lifted.
Firefighters fighting the McDougall Creek wildfire near Kelowna report similar trends of heavy rain helping crews control the blazes, which have forced more than 25,000 people to evacuate from their homes across B.C.
Tower says the Bush Creek East fire in the Shuswap region remains the province's top priority wildfire, and up to 150 more firefighters were scheduled to arrive on-site Wednesday and today to further contain the blaze.
— With files from CHNL.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2023.