Cattle walk through burned-out forest area along Highway 20 west of Williams Lake. (Coast Mountain News) Cattle walk through burned-out forest area along Highway 20 west of Williams Lake. (Coast Mountain News)

2017 now worst wildfire season in B.C.

Total area burned approaching 9,000 square km across the province

The 2017 B.C. wildfire season has surpassed the record for area burned set in 1958, wildfire officials say.

Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek said in his daily update call Wednesday that the latest estimate is mostly as a result of mapping work, and is subject to change.

EARLIER: B.C. Wildfire season approaching 2009 record

“And of course we’re only halfway through August, so we expect that to increase,” Skrepnek said. “One silver lining to the weather that we’re seeing right now is that we’re not expecting the return of that massive high pressure…with high temperatures.”

But with no rain expected for southern B.C. and winds expected to pick up towards this weekend, he said it is likely the area burned will continue to increase at least in the short term.

To compound the dry conditions, Williams Lake RCMP had four youths in custody Wednesday, suspected of setting multiple fires in the Lexington subdivision of the city.

The arrests came as Williams Lake’s evacuation alert was lifted after weeks of stand-by and an evacuation of the community.

RELATED: RCMP determine Lexington Road fire is caused by arson

Alexis Creek RCMP are also investigating a suspicious fire that destroyed a mobile home 40 km west of the community.

The fire did not spread beyond the residence.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the federal and provincial governments are working on a compensation program for farmers and ranchers affected by the fire.

The program is to assist with damage to farm operations and loss of grazing land as fires have swept across the ranching territory of the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

RELATED: Financial support offered to fire-affected businesses

“We felt it was extremely important to let farmers and ranchers know that this is underway, to give them some peace of mind,” Popham said.