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B.C. to lift most wildfire-related travel restrictions in southern Interior

British Columbia's minister of emergency management says a wildfire-related travel ban restricting travel to hotels or campgrounds in many communities in the southern Interior will be lifted at midnight.

Order to remain in West Kelowna, however; people urged to avoid travel to Lake Country, Shuswap areas

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A wildfire-related travel ban to hotels or campgrounds in many communities in the southern Interior will be lifted at midnight, according to B.C.'s Minister of Emergency Management.

The order was implemented Saturday and restricted travel for the purpose of staying in temporary accommodations to Kelowna and West Kelowna, Kamloops, Oliver, Osoyoos, Penticton and Vernon.

It was designed to make space for the thousands of evacuees ordered out of their homes due to hundreds of wildfires burning around the province, as well as first responders and support staff.

However, non-essential travel to West Kelowna continues to be prohibited and people are being urged to stay away from the Lake Country and Shuswap areas.

At a Wednesday news conference, part of an official tour of wildfire-ravaged areas, B.C.'s Minister of Emergency Management Bowinn Ma said the order has had its intended effect of freeing up hotel rooms for those who needed it most.

"[We are] extremely grateful to the support of the tourism sector for their compassion and their understanding," she said. "We know that these kinds of travel orders have an effect on on their work as well and their livelihoods."

Ma said the province will continue to place evacuees in the accommodations that are now available, working with local governments and First Nations.

She said anyone planning on travelling in B.C., should avoid fire-affected communities and respect evacuation orders and alerts.

"Check DriveBC before you go, have an emergency kit and let compassion and common sense lead you."

The rescinding of the order comes as tourism operators say their businesses have taken a nosedive, even in communities where the travel restrictions did not apply.

At the same news conference, B.C. Premiere David Eby said the province was starting to look towards rebuilding and recovery, with "heroic" efforts by firefighters helping calm aggressive blazes.

"The work and the discussions and the efforts and partnership with the federal government, with First Nations and others on recovery has started already," he said.

Ma said the West Kelowna travel ban is set to stay in place until Sept. 4, but may be lifted earlier if conditions allow it.

With files from The Canadian Press

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