MONTREAL, July 17: Thousands of people fled their homes in western Canada over the weekend as strong winds fanned forest fires that have ravaged British Columbia province for more than a week.
The inferno’s progress prompted authorities to take new emergency measures, ordering the evacuation of 24,000 people in the region including the town of Williams Lake which is home to some 11,000 people, reported public broadcaster CBC.
Some 60 per cent of affected residents have already left their homes.
The province’s transport minister, Todd Stone, told a news conference Sunday that between 36,000 and 37,000 people have so far been forced from their homes since the wild fires sparked by hot dry weather prompted a state of emergency to be declared on Jul 7.
Local authorities said there were currently 162 wildfires active as of Sunday, including around 15 that posed a threat to residential areas. Some 3,000 firefighters, including 415 sent in from surrounding provinces, were battling the flames.
A firefighting helicopter crashed in the region on Saturday, and its pilot – who was alone on board – was being treated in hospital.
Further to the south, fire crews equipped with aircraft in the US state of California were making steady progress against 11 active blazes fuelled by searing temperatures and high winds.
“Great news! All evacuation warnings for the #AlamoFire have been lifted. There is fire equipment still in the area working – use caution,” the official account for Cal Fire tweeted.
The Whittier fire, which began on Jul 8 and stretched across 18,015 acres and has burned down almost 2,000 structures was 36 per cent contained, according to the agency.