British Columbia wildfires intensify, evacuations doubled to more than 35,000.

A resident sprays water on hot spots near a home in Celista, British Columbia, Canada, August 19, 2023. Canada’s record-breaking wildfires have already burned an area larger than Greece and are moving toward major population centers. , forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate.

Cole Burston | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Wildfires raged in the western Canadian province of British Columbia on Saturday, doubling the number of people under evacuation orders a day earlier as authorities warned of tough days ahead.

On Friday, the province declared a state of emergency with temporary authorities in place to deal with fire-related risks as out-of-control fires swept through British Columbia’s interior, partially closing parts of a major highway between the Pacific coast and others. western Canada and destroys a lot of property.

“The current situation is dire,” Prime Minister Daniel Ebi told reporters on Saturday, adding that about 35,000 people were under evacuation orders and another 30,000 under evacuation warnings.

Eby said the state desperately needs shelter for evacuees and firefighters and ordered a ban on non-essential travel to provide more temporary housing. Officials also urged residents not to use drones in the fire zone, saying it could hinder firefighting efforts.

The fire is centered around Kelowna, a city of about 150,000 people, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) east of Vancouver.

Wildfires are not uncommon in Canada, but the spread and interruptions of the blazes underscore the severity of its worst wildfire season yet.

About 140,000 square km (54,054 square miles) of land, roughly the size of New York state, has already burned, and government officials predict the fire season could extend into the fall due to widespread drought conditions across Canada.

B.C. has had high winds and dry lightning over the past few days. This fueled existing wildfires and ignited new ones.

People gather to search as a helicopter collects water from Lake Shannon on August 19, 2023 in West Kelowna, British Columbia. Residents of western Canada are scrambling to evacuate as raging wildfires engulf two separate metropolitan areas — sending tens of thousands fleeing for days.

Paige Taylor White | Afp | Getty Images

“We’re still in some critical dry conditions and still have some tough days ahead,” said Jerrad Schroeder, deputy fire center manager at the Kamloops Fire Centre.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a meeting of key ministers and senior officials to discuss the wildfires on Saturday. The Incident Response Team, which met for the second time this week, agreed to provide “additional resources” for both British Columbia and the Northwest Territories (NWT).

The main east-west road is under threat

An out-of-control wildfire in the NWT’s capital, Yellowknife, has forced the evacuation of nearly all of its 20,000 residents this week. A patient died while being evacuated from Yellowknife, the NWT minister said on Saturday.

The fire is not currently expected to reach city limits until the end of the weekend, with officials saying some rain and cool temperatures are helping to slow its progress.

The TransCanada Highway was closed between the village of Hope and Lytton, about 400 km northeast of Vancouver, near Chase and 150 km east of Vancouver.

The highway is a major east-west artery used by thousands of drivers and trucks heading to Vancouver, the nation’s busiest port.

Kip Lumquist, who works at a gift shop in Craigellachie, British Columbia, said the highway is a tourist hotspot.

“It was crazy, we couldn’t see hills, mountains, trees, anything for probably two and a half days,” Lumquist said. “I drive a white car and when I go out to get in my car… it’s just black… It’s devastating to the community.”

By Friday, the fire in southern BC had grown more than a hundred times in 24 hours, forcing the evacuation of more than 2,400 properties.

The flames have destroyed several structures in West Kelowna, and officials have warned the province could potentially face the worst two days of the fire season this year.

BC currently accounts for more than a third of Canada’s 1,062 active fires.

According to the main utility service, about 5 thousand subscribers were left without electricity in the province.

The fires have drained local resources and have drawn support from 13 states in addition to help from the federal government. At least four firefighters died in the line of duty.

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