Lightning flashes across Vancouver on Sunday. More than half new fires in British Columbia are linked to the storm that saw 1,600 lightning strikes hit the South Coast and Central Interior. (CBC/Submitted by Damian Connolly)

Lightning strikes spark a rash of wildfires in British Columbia

Wildfires–many of them triggered by lightning strikes in the midst of sweltering 35C heat–have forced hundreds of people from their homes in British Columbia.

Thousands of others are on evacuation alert.

Figures from the B.C. Wildfire Service released late Tuesday night show that among 109 active fires in the province, 95 were started in the last few days.

Most of the fires clustered in the southern part of the province.

The Christie Mountain fire was burning out of control on Tuesday night. (Submitted by Ellie Sigouin/CBC)

And, the Service says, more than half the new fires are linked to a storm Sunday night that saw 1,600 lightning strikes along the South Coast and Central Interior.

They include the Christie Mountain wildfire, north of Okanagan Falls, that triggered an evacuation order for hundreds of nearby homes late Tuesday afternoon and a stand-by alert delivered to parts of nearby Penticton several hours later.

By Wednesday morning, the fire had grown to about 1000 hectares in size.

The fire is burning in difficult, rocky sloped terrain, making it challenging for ground crews to access. 

Beachgoers watch the fire from Skaha Lake located south of Penticton on Tuesday afternoon. (Josh Pagé/CBC)

Early reports indicated it was an active surface fire with an organized flame front.

“We anticipate we will see further growth once we are able to get a more accurate tracking of the fire,” the service wrote on Twitter.

Firefighters on the ground are being supported by air tankers.

The Service called the situation “rapidly evolving” and asked everyone to stay clear of the area.

An image posted by the B.C. Wildfire Service late on Tuesday shows the fire burning east of Skaha Lake. (BC Wildfire Service)

So far, the summer has been one quietest fire seasons in the past decade in B.C.

However, officials are warning that sustained hot and dry weather could lead to more wildfires in southern B.C.

The province has seen nearly 500 wildfires to date this summer.

With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press

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