Residents Flee Lillooet In British Columbia As Forest Fire Rages

Residents Flee Lillooet In British Columbia As Forest Fire Rages

5 August 2009

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Canada — About 2,300 Lillooet residents in British Columbia fled their homes as forest fires continued around Mount McLean.

The fire near Lillooet started Wednesday afternoon. Fire officials ordered an evacuation for Lillooet’s west side and put the rest of the district on evacuation alert. However, Lillooet fire information officer Jerry Sucharyna said they left the choice of staying put or temporarily fleeing their homes to the residents.

With more than 2,200 fires hitting the province this year, firefighters from British Columbia and reinforcements from Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are finding it difficult to contain the raging forest fires triggered by the dry conditions and hot summer temperatures.

Because of the large number of blazes, British Columbia has asked for help from other countries particularly the United States and Australia. Twenty-two firemen from Victoria in Australia and eight firefighters from New Zealand are scheduled to arrive in Vancouver on Thursday and are expected to stay in British Columbia for about one month.

BC Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell said in a statement Tuesday, “The large number of fires is stretching our resources?. In addition to the support we already have from other provinces and territories, we are grateful for the assistance from these Australian and New Zealand professionals.”

Since almost 5,000 BC residents have been evacuated since the fires hit the province’s forests, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered assistance too affected residents.

Harper told BC Premier Gordon Campbell he expects British Columbia to seek help under the federal government’s Disaster Relief Act.

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