Wildfires engulf Canada homes as evacuation quickens


BBC – About 15,000 households have been ordered to evacuate in Canada’s British Columbia, as firefighters battle raging wildfires that have set homes ablaze.


Officials said a “significant” number of buildings caught fire in West Kelowna, a city of 36,000 people, and more than 2,400 homes were evacuated.


A state of emergency has been declared for the entire province, where hundreds of separate fires are burning.


Hundreds of miles north, a huge fire edges towards the city of Yellowknife.

An official deadline to evacuate the city – the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories – lapsed on Friday.
A local official said later that day that nearly all residents had left, either by car or plane.

About 19,000 of the city’s 20,000 inhabitants had evacuated, the territories’ environment and communities minister Shane Thompson told reporters.

“Some are choosing to shelter in place. If you are still in Yellowknife and you are not essential to the emergency response, please evacuate,” Thompson said.

He warned that the highways and airport could be impacted by the wildfires.

In British Columbia, evacuation orders grew from covering 4,000 homes on Friday afternoon to about 15,000 in the space of an hour. Another 20,000 homes are under alert.

Premier of the province, David Eby, said that evening that the situation had “evolved rapidly” and officials were braced for “an extremely challenging situation in the days ahead”.

“This year, we’re facing the worst #BCWildfire season ever,” Eby wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Given these fast-moving conditions, we are declaring a provincial state of emergency.”

The premier said this would ensure “that we’re in a position to rapidly access any tools we need to support communities”.

He said that more and more people were being evacuated, warning that “emergency orders could include travel restrictions to specific areas if people do not respect our calls to avoid non-essential travel”.

Canada is having its worst wildfire season on record, with at least 1,000 fires burning across the country, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC).

Experts say climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires.

Extreme and long-lasting heat draws more and more moisture out of the ground – which can provide fuel for fires that can spread at an incredible speed, particularly if winds are strong.

Earlier, West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund described the wildfire as “devastating”.

“We fought hard last night to protect our community. We fought 100 years worth of fires all in one night,” he added.

Local officials have already reported “significant structural loss” in the area, including in Trader’s Cove, just north of West Kelowna.

No deaths have been reported so far.

Juliana Loewen lives in Kelowna – a larger twin city of West Kelowna on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake.

She told the BBC how locals had watched a plume of smoke coming over the mountainside like an “ominous cloud of destruction” and how some on the Trader’s Cove side jumped into the lake as the fire spread and exit routes were blocked.

Her brother and grandmother fled to her house after “the fire jumped very quickly from one tree to an entire area, threatening an entire residential community”.

Local residents are used to the fires because of a “California-style climate” in the area – but the heat, dryness and wind seen in recent days had created the “perfect conditions for a firestorm”, Loewen added.

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