Canada wild fires force thousands to flee

Thousands have been forced to flee their homes as towns are threatened by wildfires sweeping through the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Firefighters have been drafted in from Australian and New Zealand to help battle the raging forest fires.
They are expected to remain in Canada’s westernmost province for 30 days.

“The large number of fires is stretching our resources,” said Pat Bell, British Columbia’s forests minister.
“In addition to the support we already have from other provinces and territories, we are grateful for the assistance from these Australian and New Zealand professionals.”
Hardest-hit by the fires were Central Okanagan, a wine-growing and tourism region 250 miles (400km) east of the main western city of Vancouver, and communities further northwest near the historic gold rush town of Lillooet.
Residents of Lillooet formed the majority of some 5,000 people forced to flee the blazes that were closing in on towns and aboriginal communities.
Regional fire spokeswoman Alyson Couch said British Columbia had asked for help from firefighters from other countries. American crews who would normally be called upon for help were unable to because they had their own raging fires to deal with in the west of the United States.
“Their fire situation is escalating at this time and they don’t have any resources for us.”
And so officials looked overseas for help.
There are some 2,000 provincial forests ministry staff, 750 local contractors and 850 firefighters from out-of-province fighting blazes in British Columbia or supporting those efforts.
With the arrival of the Australians and New Zealanders, some of the more experienced Canadian personnel will be redeployed to supervise newly trained emergency firefighters, while others are to be given a short rest break.
Emergency officials said that while showers had been forecast for later in the week it would take some major rainfall to substantially reduce the current danger.
The fires erupted after record-breaking temperatures last week of up to 40 degrees C (104 F) rendered much of British Columbia’s forest woods tinder-dry.
Officials say new blazes are starting daily, caused mostly by lightning strikes, but with some caused by people.
There have been no deaths or injuries so far because of the blazes and only three homes have been destroyed so far.

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