Two firefighters die in growing LA wildfire

B.C. forest fires grow, threaten homes

30 August 2009

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Canada — With dry weather across much of the province, numerous forest fires were threatening homes in British Columbia over the weekend.

“This weekend has been quite warm and very dry. We’re seeing extremely dry humidity (levels),” said provincial fire information officer Kim Steinbart on Sunday.

“We’re now at a point where even the areas that did receive significant rainfall a few weeks ago, they’re dried out and back to being in high to extreme fire danger.”

As of Sunday afternoon, there were 861 homes across the province under evacuation orders because of fires, while another 3,000 homes had been issued evacuation alerts, meaning residents must be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

The Kelly Creek wildfire near Clinton, northwest of Kamloops, grew by more than 20 per cent over the weekend, and was estimated on Saturday night at 16,439 hectares. There are 77 firefighters and 13 helicopters combating the blaze.

Roughly 125 residents have been ordered to leave their homes since that fire was discovered on Aug. 1, while another 1,200 people in the area are on evacuation alert, meaning they must be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Another fire, roughly 35 kilometres east of Kamloops, has forced residents of Pritchard to leave their homes. An existing evacuation order was extended on Friday to include more homes. The fire was estimated at 1,377 hectares as of Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, the Tsi Del Del First Nations issued a state of emergency on Sunday as a result of the Lava Canyon fire. That blaze, burning about 100 kilometres west of Williams Lake, was estimated at 51,645 hectares on Sunday, the size of 327,000 NHL hockey rinks.

Eleven residents of the Scum Lake area near the fire are still out of their homes after an evacuation order was issued on Aug. 20.

About 15 kilometres northwest of Salmon Arm, the 1,672-hectare Notch Hill fire that was discovered on Aug. 21 was 25 per cent contained as of Saturday night. Roughly four kilometres of sprinklers have been set up to protect homes in the area.

And in northern B.C., a 23,182-hectare fire — the size of 38,777 CFL football fields — is still burning along the Alaska Highway. No firefighters are working on the blaze, which started on June 1 from a lightning strike. It is only 35-per-cent contained and will be allowed to continue burning. No homes are currently threatened.

“When we’re dealing with a number of fires that are impacting life and property, those become our top priorities,” said Steinbart. “So in an area where there are no communities that are being impacted, we can put what we feel is sufficient on that fire and move other resources to other areas.”

There was some good news over the weekend on the fire front. Residents near the 200-hectare Community Lake Plateau wildfire, about 10 kilometres west of Sun Peaks resort near Kamloops, were allowed to return home on Saturday, but remain on evacuation alert.

With 146 active wildfires burning across B.C., crews have been working tirelessly to protect residents and their properties. Steinbart said roughly 4,000 people have been working on the fires this summer. With a very busy fire season, resources are being stretched to the max.

“We’re certainly at a point where we have to prioritize where we are putting our resources, to ensure we are using them as efficiently as possible,” said Steinbart. “Our staff has been working very hard for a long period of time now. When things calm down a little bit, we may be able to give more people some rest.”

Campfire bans are in place across the province, with the exception of the Prince George region, the southeast region and parts of the coast.

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