Fires in Western Canada On August 1, 2003, dozens of large fires were burning across western North America in Canada (top half of image) and the United States (bottom half). Huge plumes of smoke were streaming northeastward from massive fires in Canadas British Columbia (left) and Alberta (right) provinces, while across the international border, fires were burning in (left to right) Washington, Idaho, and Montana. This image was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite.
Heat signatures and smoke plumes (light blue haze) are visible from fires burning in Montana and Alberta, Canada. The Wedge Canyon (22,000 acres) and the Robert Fire (19,000 acres) are burning in Flathead National Forest. The Trapper Complex Fire has scorched 19,000 acres in Glacier National Park. This information is from the National Interagency Fire Center’s Incident Management Situation Report from 01 August 2003.
Fears grow over Canada fires
There is renewed concern about several major forest fires that have driven more than 10,000 people from their homes in Canada.
On Sunday officials had suggested that three fires which threatened several towns in the western province of British Columbia were calming down. But those fires are said to be growing again and a separate fire in the Rocky Mountains, in the US state of Washington, is forcing more evacuations. BBC correspondent Ian Gunn, in Vancouver, said thermal images taken from the air revealed that the worst fires have grown more than previously thought.
One is still approaching a suburb of Kamloops, about 150 miles (240 kilometres) from Vancouver. Kamloops is the town to which many people have been evacuated. About 1,000 people have also been forced to evacuate their homes in the Rocky Mountains after a blaze that had seemed to be diminishing advanced on properties.
Emergency officials in British Columbia have been trying to convince evacuees that it is not yet safe to return home. More than 70 houses and a sawmill were said to have been destroyed by one of the fires in the town of Barriere, about 180 miles (300 km) north-east of Vancouver.
No deaths have been reported, although one man, from Barriere, was severely burned after his clothes caught fire while trying to help a neighbour hose down his house, officials said.
At least one of the blazes is thought to have been started by a discarded cigarette. Rough terrain is hampering attempts by firefighters to reach the fire itself. Firefighting pilots and crews had spent so much time in the air, they risked being grounded for exceeding overtime regulations.
Reinforcements have been brought in to boost firefighters on the ground, officials said. Kamloops Deputy Fire Chief Dave Marcotte said their forces were overwhelmed at first. “Right now our resources are back up, our men are rested and we are ready to tackle anything that happens,” he said.
Fire behaviour expert Al Beaver said a good five days of rain was needed to help stop the fires.
“I’ve never experienced fuels at the dryness level they are here,” he said. “Right now nature is really holding all the trump cards.” However no rain is expected for at least five or six days. The fire has cut power to some areas of British Columbia – which is about the size of Germany and France combined – closed a major highway and halted rail services. “This is the worst situation we’ve had and the driest circumstances that we’ve measured in the last 50 years,” British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell said. “In all likelihood British Columbians have never lived through a drier forest situation than we are living through this summer.” SOURCE: BBC