Canada: 35,000 people under evacuation orders in British Columbia as wildfires intensify  

Bowinn Ma, BC’s minister of emergency management said that the situation in the popular boating and hiking destination was ‘highly dynamic’. 

August 20, 2023 06:03 pm | Updated August 21, 2023 11:44 pm IST - British Columbia [Canada]

A helicopter drops water as the McDougall Creek wildfire continues to burn in West Kelowna, British Columbia, on August 19, 2023.

A helicopter drops water as the McDougall Creek wildfire continues to burn in West Kelowna, British Columbia, on August 19, 2023. | Photo Credit: AFP

Following the state of emergency declared by Canada's British Columbia province due to the wildfire, the evacuation order in the province has surged to 35,000 from a day earlier, reported Al Jazeera. Premier of British Columbia Daniel Eby said that a further 30,000 people are also under an evacuation alert. “The current situation is grim,” Mr. Eby added. 

Moreover, Western Canada authorities have implored tens of thousands of people to heed evacuation orders and warned of difficult days ahead as 'severe and fast-changing forest fires in the province intensified further. Earlier on Friday, British Columbia province declared a state of emergency as the out-of-control fire in the province's southern region grew more than one hundredfold in 24 hours, according to Al Jazeera.  

The fire – centred around Kelowna, a city of 150,000 people and located some 300 kilometres (180 miles) east of Vancouver has partially shut down some sections of a key transit route between the Pacific coast and the rest of western Canada. Moreover, it has also caused damage to many properties. The province accounts for more than a third of Canada’s 1,062 active fires.

Bowinn Ma, BC’s minister of emergency management said that the situation in the popular boating and hiking destination was ‘highly dynamic’. “We cannot stress strongly enough how critical it is to follow evacuation orders when they are issued,” she said at an afternoon news conference. It’s a matter of life and death not only for the people in those properties but also for the first responders who will often go back to try to implore people to leave,” he added. 

Gord Milson, the mayor of West Kelowna, described the mood in the town as “anxious” owing to the escalating wildfire, reported Al Jazeera. “There’s just so much smoke it’s difficult to truly assess what’s occurring. But we were able to get further air support today which will help us fight the fires. But unfortunately, there were some structures lost last night and today. So, we are not out of it by any means," he further said. The blazes in British Columbia during the strong winds and dry lightening due to a cold mass of air interacting with hot air built-up in the humid summer. 

Additionally, those conditions have further intensified existing forest fires and have also ignited new ones, Al Jazeera reported. The deputy fire centre manager at the Kamloops Fire Centre Jerrad Schroeder, said, "We are still in some critically dry conditions and are still expecting difficult days ahead."

Furthermore, while asking for help, officials in British Columbia said that the province is in dire need of shelter for evacuees and firefighters and have further ordered a ban on non-essential travel to make temporary accommodations available in this situation.

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