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Fires continue to rage in British Columbia as more evacuations ordered

Record-setting wildfires in the western Canadian province are expected to push more people out of their homes this week.

Wildfires in British Columbia contiunue to cause problems. Source - BC Wildfire Service
Wildfires in British Columbia contiunue to cause problems. Source - BC Wildfire Service

Record-setting wildfires in the western Canadian province are expected to push more people out of their homes this week.

Late on Friday, B.C. Premier David Eby declared a provincial state of emergency due to the evolving wildfire situation. By Saturday, over 35,000 residents were under an evacuation order and another 30,000 were under an evacuation alert.

The fire fight on both shores of Lake Okanagan continues, even as firefighters have said recent calmer and cooler conditions are helping in the fight.

About 200 firefighters, including representatives from departments around the province, are battling the destructive McDougall Creek wildfire, which was last measured at 105 square kilometers (40.5 square miles).

On Saturday, the province brought in restrictions on travel for the purpose of staying in temporary accommodations like hotels and campgrounds in several communities in the Okanagan.

BC Premier Eby said that the restrictions would free up hotel rooms and other accommodations for evacuees and emergency personnel including firefighters. “We shouldn’t need an order; please stay out of these places,” he told reporters in Vancouver.

Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said those accommodations are no longer available for anything other than essential travel so the rooms can be available for firefighters and evacuees.

The TransCanada highway was closed near Chase, around 400 km northeast of Vancouver, and between Hope, 150 km east of Vancouver, and the village of Lytton. The highway is the main east-west artery used by thousands of motorists and truckers heading to Vancouver, the country’s busiest port.

Crystal Sangris barely slept for three days as wildfires threatened her hometown in northern Canada
Crystal Sangris barely slept for three days as wildfires threatened her hometown in northern Canada – Copyright AFP Gavin John

The BC Wildfire Service lists more than 380 active wildfires burning in the province including 14 that are considered “of note” meaning they are highly visible or threatening public safety.

The fire is one of two in Canada that have led thousands to evacuate their homes in the last week. Hundreds of miles away from Kelowna, a wildfire converging on the city of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, prompted officials to order a mass evacuation of the entire city.

Currently, the fire is not expected to reach city limits by the end of the weekend, officials said, with some rain and cooler temperatures helping to slow its progress.

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