Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS The sun is obscured by smoke from wildfires as an RCMP helicopter flies over Kelowna, B.C., on Tuesday.

More rain needed to end B.C. wildfires: officials

INVERMERE, B.C. — Hundreds of homes have burned and nearly half a billion dollars has been spent, but officials say there’s no end in sight for British Columbia’s devastating wildfire season.

Kevin Skrepnek with the BC Wildfire Service said Wednesday that many areas of the province are still tinder dry and in desperate need of rain.

The forecast is calling for showers across the province in the coming days, but Skrepnek said that won’t be enough to douse the flames, especially in the southeastern part of B.C., where a number of aggressive fires are burning.

“A sprinkle of rain is only going to provide temporary relief. We need a long, sustained soaking of rain right across the province,” he said.

More than 1,200 wildfires have sparked across the province since April 1, charring 11,500 square kilometres of land.

Chris Duffy with Emergency Management BC said the flames have also burned 431 structures, including 220 homes. While some of the structures were destroyed, others have been damaged, he said.

The Cariboo Regional District, which includes the City of Williams Lake in central B.C., said this week that at least 62 homes and 140 outbuildings have been destroyed by several massive wildfires that broke out following lightning storms in early July.

Wildfires have also prompted officials to close off hiking trails and parks, but the prohibitions haven’t kept all adventurers out of danger.

Columbia Valley RCMP Sgt. Bob Vatamaniuk said a hiker was plucked from a trail in the southeastern corner of the province when he encountered a wall of flames.

Vatamaniuk said the man had been on the trail in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park for six days and was low on energy and supplies when he realized he was in danger and used his handheld satellite communication system to call for help.

“Knowing that he couldn’t turn around and walk another six days, he initiated his SOS request,” Vatamaniuk said.

The man was airlifted to safety by a helicopter crew working on the nearby wildfire before a search and rescue team could reach him, Vatamaniuk said.

Federal and provincial ministers met Tuesday in Vancouver to discuss B.C.’s record-breaking wildfire season and how they can help communities rebuild.

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced $20 million to help ranchers recover, and First Nations leaders called for more funding for emergency preparedness in their communities.

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