Canada hopes for break in battling fierce forest fires

The Okanagan fire remained the site of the most concentrated battle, with about 264 ground firefighters, 16 helicopters and 83 heavy equipment operators battling the blaze, which was only 30 percent controlled.

With thousands of evacuees still stranded, emergency officials were hoping for cooler temperatures to help firefighters tame wildfires raging through Canada’s westernmost province.

The fires were set off during a recent heat wave, but weather forecasters called for normal temperatures of between 25 and 35 degrees Centigrade (77 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit) in the hard-hit west and interior.
Light showers were expected later in the week, followed by a return to dry sunny weather on the weekend.
An uncontrolled fire less than one kilometer above continued to lick at the town of Lillooet Wednesday, but firefighters had successfully created a break between buildings and the blaze overnight, provincial fire official Alyson Couch told AFP.
Lillooet, 213 kilometres (132 miles) northeast of Vancouver, is home to nearly half of the 5,000 people currently on evacuation from fires throughout British Columbia.
Another 2,500 people remained out of their homes in the Central Okanagan wine-growing and tourist area, 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Vancouver.
The Okanagan fire remained the site of the most concentrated battle, with about 264 ground firefighters, 16 helicopters and 83 heavy equipment operators battling the blaze, which was only 30 percent controlled, said a forestry service bulletin.
The good news, said Couch, is that no human injuries or deaths had yet been reported, and only three homes have been burned, all in the Okanagan.
“And over the last 24 hours we have seen a bit of quieter behaviour” throughout British Columbia, said Couch. “Typically we’ve been seeing 100 new fire starts each day, but (Tuesday) we had only 50.”
Some 850 firefighters from elsewhere in Canada have arrived in the past week to aid several thousand British Columbia firefighters. Couch said 30 senior fire management officials from New Zealand and Australia will arrive to help this week.
“We can call on the (Canadian) military if we need to, but that is as a last resort,” said Couch.
Of the 800 fires burning in British Columbia, the forestry service ranked 125 as serious, because they threaten communities or are large in size.

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