More than 500 wildfires burn in Canadian British Columbia

More than 500 wildfires burn in Canadian British Columbia

2 August 2009

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Canada — An aggressive wildfire is ravaging near Lillooet in Canada’s western British Columbia, leaving nearly 3,000 residents at evacuation alert, local media reported Saturday.

Meanwhile, more than 500 wildfires are burning in the province, fueled by record-high temperature combined with lightening.

The fire near the southwest interior town of Lillooet is nearly tripled in size from an estimated 1,000 hectares last Monday to about 2,600 hectares on Saturday. Officials said the blaze is less than one kilometer from the town and is in danger of growing even larger given the tinder-dry conditions and thunderstorms in the forecast.

The fire is one of the most serious among hundreds of wildfires the province is suffering.

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell issued a rare warning Friday, saying the wildfire risk across the province has reached a critical level due to continued hot and dry weather and urging people to refrain from entering the forest in order to avoid any risk.

“The wildfire risk is at the highest level in recent memory, with 85 percent of the province facing a high or extreme fire hazard level,” Campbell warned.

“Right now, there are 531 forest fires currently burning,” he added.

It cost the province about 3 million Canadian dollars to fight the wildfires, officials said.

Since April 1, the province has responded to 1,817 wildfires that have burned approximately 51,042 hectares of forests and grasslands. About half of those fires were human-caused.

On July 30 alone, 171 fires started, primarily from lightning.

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