Published: Thu, July 20, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Extent of damage remains unclear as winds fan BC wildfires

Extent of damage remains unclear as winds fan BC wildfires

Massive wildfires fuelled by strong winds have been sweeping over Canada's British Columbia province for more than a week, forcing thousands of people to evacuate.

Williams Lake evacuee Gregory Alphonse left the city on Saturday after an evacuation order was issued.

Cariboo Regional District chairman Al Richmond said Monday that teams have gained access to areas where houses and other buildings have been destroyed northwest of 100 Mile House.

Crews are also working to restore electricity, telephone service and other infrastructure in regions evacuated after the fires broke out July 6. "We want them to know, all evacuees to know, that their government and their fellow British Columbians and in fact people across the country have got their backs". The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced Monday that Ottawa was deploying military aircraft and Australia was sending 50 firefighters to battle the wildfires.

Speaking in Pilot Butte, Saskatchewan, Goodale said 500 additional Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers have also been sent in to assist with evacuation and police communities when they have been cleared out.

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Lake Country Fire Chief Steve Windsor said citizens' concerns about possible loss of residence were understandable.

There are 27 "fires of note" and 15 of the fires are threatening communities. "So Canadians have rallied together here".

The state of emergency in B.C. continues to escalate, with dozens of new wildfires emerging daily for more than a week. "Crews are now arriving from Australia ... the fire danger rating throughout the Cariboo remains extreme". "These are not frontline firefighting position but specialists and support staff".

"We have a bit of a double-edged sword there", he said.

Initially, they planned that Williams Lake residents would go north to Prince George, but Richmond said flames crossed that highway, and the majority of evacuees were diverted south towards Kamloops. "Obviously the rain would be welcome, but that could likely bring some lightning with it".

He said he was concerned about overloading the centre and urged those people whose homes had been evacuated to call the Red Cross, which is helping co-ordinate the efforts. Deputy provincial health officer Doctor Bonnie Henry says stress is a normal response to an abnormal situation.

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