By: Thomas I. Likness
EBC News Service
(Eagle News) — Hundreds of people remain out of their homes and thousands more have been told to be prepared to evacuate if fire conditions worsen in the western Canadian province of British Columbia.
A heat wave has left most of the heavily forested province tinder-dry, with a high to extreme fire risk. Thousands of lightning strikes have sparked most of the fires.
The BC Wildfire Service reported 175 active fires Saturday afternoon.
At least two people are feared dead after a wildfire destroyed the town of Lytton, three hours northeast of Vancouver. The community recorded a record temperature record of 49.5 C (121 F) earlier this week.
Several town residents are unaccounted for. Forensic teams are still waiting toxic smoke to clear so they can go into the town site to search for other victims.
The cause of the wildfire is being investigated.
There have been suggestions it may have been sparked by a cargo train passing through the regions.
Both CN Rail and Cp Rail, which have tracks in the region, are cooperating with the investigation.
Military ready to help
Yesterday, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the military is on standby to provide assistance to the province.
“We will position more air resources in Edmonton as quickly as is possible, including a Hercules aircraft and two Chinook medium-heavy lift helicopters,” said Sajjan on Twitter. “They can be used to provide airlift of firefighters and equipment into and out of affected areas and support evacuations of residents.”
Vancouver at risk
In the coastal city of Vancouver, residents are being warned they also face a fire danger.
Vancouver Fire Rescue Services says although the city may seem to have a lower risk, large parks and green spaces in the city are dry.
“The fire danger in Vancouver is extreme,” the department said on Twitter. “Please be extra careful around dry vegetation: no smoking in parks or beaches and dispose of butts only in approved containers.”
The department says burning or smoldering brush or grass fires grow extremely fast.
Although temperatures in the province are moderating, what is needed now is heavy rain to replenish the soil moisture.
But as thunderstorms are forecast, they bring with them lightning, which in turn could spark more fires.
(Eagle News Service)