11 Jul 2017

British Columbia wildfires: 14,000 people evacuated

10:37 am on 11 July 2017

Some 14,000 people have been evacuated in the Canadian province of British Columbia as more firefighters arrive to help fight the flames.

Lightning and dry weather throughout the region have caused the fires to spread quickly.

Lightning and dry weather throughout the region have caused the fires to spread quickly. Photo: Canadian Red Cross

About 300 out-of-province firefighters are due this week to assist in battling the roughly 220 fires raging in British Columbia's central interior region.

The federal government is also sending military aircraft to assist.

The western province is under a state of emergency as hot and dry weather conditions fuel the flames.

Roughly 1000 provincial firefighters are working to fight the wildfires, joined by about 200 contract firefighters from British Columbia's forestry industry.

The province announced on Sunday that $C100m would be made available to help those displaced by raging wildfires. The Canadian Red Cross is also taking donations.

British Columbia experiences up to 2000 wildfires a year and the majority are contained within 24 hours.

But over two weeks of hot and dry conditions, combined with gusty winds and lightning late last week, have sparked many new aggressive fires of above-average scale and intensity.

Emergency officials said about 40,000 hectares have burned across the province since 1 April with most of the damage in recent days. They noted that thick smoke makes it difficult to accurately estimate the size of many of the current blazes.

Those battling the flames are at the mercy of weather conditions when it comes to bringing the fires under control.

Hot and dry conditions are expected to continue over the next few days, along with lightning.

Emergency officials said about 40,000 hectares have burned across the province since 1 April with most of the damage in recent days.

Emergency officials said about 40,000 hectares have burned across the province since 1 April with most of the damage in recent days. Photo: Canadian Red Cross / Jasmine Baye

Large sections of the province remain under extreme or very high risk of fire, according to the federal government's Natural Resources department.

A campfire ban has been enacted across the province and many provincial parks have been closed.

Provincial officials said that out of the 572 fires started in British Columbia during this current wildfire season, 258 were caused by people.

Some 14,000 people have been evacuated in British Columbia.

Some 14,000 people have been evacuated in British Columbia. Photo: Canadian Red Cross / Jasmine Baye

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Ottawa has sent in 3000 cots and other supplies to emergency shelters.

The Canadian Armed Forces are also helping with evacuation and moving first responders.

The number of evacuees has doubled from roughly 7000 people on Saturday.

About 1500 people were forced to drive overnight on Sunday when the town of 100 Mile House in the South Caribou region was told to evacuate as the fires began to pose a threat to the community.

The fires are also threatening the region's livestock.

Local farmers are being asked to open gates and cut fences to allow animals to escape encroaching flames, The Western Producer website reports.

- BBC

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