Wildfires prompt state of emergency & evacuation in western Canada

It is the first state of emergency that has been declared in the province since 2003.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Residents of the nearby towns of Cache Creek and Ashcroft who have fled wild fires wait to be registered at an evacuation center in Kamloops, BC, Canada July 8, 2017.

British Columbia declared on Saturday its first state of emergency after 14 years in response to forest fires that have prompted the evacuation of 3,000 households in Canada’s westernmost province.

The blazes were scattered across hundreds of kilometres of the interior portion of the province, burning through bone-dry forests used for logging and rolling grasslands that are home to ranches. High temperatures and winds complicated firefighting efforts.

Smoke rises from a wildfire near 100 Mile House, British Columbia, Canada on July 7, 2017. [Reuters]

"The weather situation is not favourable," said John Rustad, provincial minister in charge of firefighting operations.

"There is very aggressive fire behaviour that makes it very difficult to directly attack," Rustad added.

The spate of wildfires began on Friday, when 138 new fires were reported, most of them sparked by lightning in dry electrical storms.

No reported casualties

No injuries or deaths were reported. Provincial officials said they did not know how much damage had been caused, though evacuees said they had left behind farm animals and witnessed destruction of homes and other buildings.

Some evacuees made their way to a make-shift emergency centre at a sporting facility in Kamloops, some 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Vancouver.

Some people said they were not given adequate time to pack up their goods. Others, who had been away from their homes on vacation, feared they would lose cherished belongings in the fires.

Canada's federal government on Saturday offered to help British Columbia respond to the fast-spreading wildfires, though provincial authorities said they may have enough resources already.

Rustad said that he expected about 260 personnel from other jurisdictions in Canada to support a team of more than 1,600 people helping respond to the fire.

"We are bringing a tremendous amount of resources to bear," he said, noting that their main priority was "to keep people safe."

British Columbia last declared a state of emergency in August 2003, which was also to deal with wildfires. 

TRTWorld and agencies