Crews brace for another day on B.C. firelines

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Ground and air crews are preparing for another day battling dozens of out-of-control wildfires that drove thousands of residents from their homes in British Columbia’s central Interior.

The continuing hot, dry and often windy conditions are making it a desperate struggle, one that evacuees throughout the region are watching with increasing anxiety.

A provincewide state of emergency was declared after more than 173 fires ignited Friday. On Saturday, nearly 100 new fires sprang up and crews were battling a total of at least 183 blazes, many of which remained uncontained.

The three biggest fires range in size from approximately 14 to 20 square kilometres and have forced thousands of people from their homes in the communities of Ashcroft, Cache Creek, 100 Mile House, 105 Mile House, 108 Mile House, 150 Mile House and the Alexis Creek area.

Precise evacuee numbers for the entire province were not released Saturday, but the Cariboo Regional District estimated that as many as 6,000 people were forced from their homes.

The province has been marshalling all the personnel it can to battle the flames, protect property and try to keep people safe.

More than 1,000 firefighters are on scene, supported by heavy equipment and helicopters. Another 600 personnel are backing them up, plus some 200 contractors, and an additional 260 firefighters are being recruited from other parts of Canada.

Despite the crews’ efforts, Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta said a fire burning between Ashcroft and Cache Creek had destroyed dozens of buildings, including at least five houses, 30 trailer park homes and two hangars at a regional airport.

Cliff Chapman, the deputy manager at the Kamloops Fire Centre, suggested Saturday was a day he’d never forget.

“I’ve been in this business for 17 years, from crew all the way up to where I am now, and I haven’t experienced a day like we experienced yesterday,” he said.

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