Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday that Canada is sending armed forces to tackle fast-spreading wildfires in British Columbia, as the western province deals with flames that have prompted the evacuation of more than 35,000 people. to request.
British Columbia declared a state of emergency and imposed a ban on non-essential travel to provide accommodations for evacuees and firefighters, urging drone operators and others taking photos of the fires to stay away from rescue workers.
West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Prolund said he saw some hope after facing “epic” fires over the past four days. Conditions improved, he said, helping firefighters put “boots on the ground” and dump water to douse the flames that threatened the town of 150,000.
“Things are looking better. We finally feel like we’re moving forward instead of backwards, and that feels great…” Prolund told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. However, he warned of tough days ahead to contain the MacDougal Creek fire. .
Wildfires are not uncommon in Canada, but the spread of fires and unrest highlights the severity of the worst wildfire season yet, which some experts have blamed on climate change.
Other fires, exacerbated by severe drought, have been reported near the US border and in the US Pacific Northwest.
Just across the border in Washington state, firefighters battled two major fires, the Gray Fire and the Oregon Road Fire, that have blackened more than 20,000 acres of forest land and destroyed more than 100 structures.
In Canada, government officials have urged residents living in areas with evacuation orders to leave immediately to save their lives and to prevent firefighters from dying trying to save them.
Officials have not yet given any estimate of the total number of buildings destroyed. Videos and pictures spread on social media showed destruction of buildings and vehicles, and huge fires that devoured large trees.
The Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain Pipeline and its expansion project, which winds its way to the Pacific Coast through the interior of British Columbia, has not been affected by the fires, a company spokesperson said Sunday.
The Coquihala Expansion Pipeline extension, southwest of Kamloops, is closest to the fire area.
“Underground pipelines are usually buried a few feet below the surface and protected by soil from fire and the constant movement of the liquid that passes through the pipeline,” the spokesperson added.
The fires drained local resources and drew federal aid as well as support from 13 countries. At least four firefighters have died in the line of duty.
About 140,000 square kilometers (54,054 sq mi) of land, roughly the size of New York state, has already been burned across the country, with smog spreading as far as the east coast of the United States. Government officials expect that the fire season may extend into the fall due to drought-like conditions.
The sky is on fire
About 2,000km to the north, a wildfire burning out of control in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territory, led to the evacuation of all of its 20,000 residents last week.
For now, the fire is not expected to reach the city limits by the end of the weekend, officials said, with some rain and cooler temperatures helping to slow its progress.
It’s been an arduous journey, said Krista Phleger, who left town with her two dogs.
“I was afraid of getting caught in the fires that were approaching the road,” she said.
For Fleger, the main concern is whether her house, which is only two years old, will survive.
In British Columbia, the TransCanada Highway was closed near Chase, about 400 kilometers northeast of Vancouver. The highway is the main east-west artery used by thousands of motorists and truck drivers heading to Vancouver, the nation’s busiest port.
Kip Lumquist, who works in a gift shop in Craigellachie, a highway tourist spot, said she’s seen a lot of destruction over the past week.
“It was crazy. We couldn’t see hills, mountains, trees, anything, for maybe two and a half days,” Lumquist said. “I drive a white car, and when I got out to get in my car… it was just black… It’s devastating to the community.”
(Reporting by Nia Williams) Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles.
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”