A helicopter sprays water as the McDougall Creek wildfire continues to burn in West Kelowna, British Columbia, on August 19, 2023. | Image credit: AFP
Following a state of emergency declared by the Canadian province of British Columbia due to wildfires, evacuation orders in the province increased to 35,000 people from a day earlier, Al Jazeera reported. British Columbia Prime Minister Daniel Eby said an additional 30,000 people were also on evacuation alert. “The current situation is dire,” he said. Eby added.
In addition, the Western Canadian government has urged tens of thousands of people to heed evacuation orders and warned of difficult days ahead as ‘severe and rapidly evolving wildfires in the province are on the rise’. Earlier on Friday, the province of British Columbia declared a state of emergency as out-of-control fires in the southern part of the province increased more than a hundredfold in 24 hours, according to Al Jazeera.
The fire – centered around Kelowna, a city of 150,000 people about 300 kilometers (180 miles) east of Vancouver, has partially closed sections of a vital shipping route between the Pacific coast and the rest of western Canada. It also causes a lot of property damage. The province accounts for more than a third of Canada’s 1,062 active fires.
Bowinn Ma, BC’s emergency management minister, said the situation in the popular hiking and boating destination was ‘very dynamic’. “We cannot stress enough how important 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 often come back to try to convince people to leave,” he added.
Gord Milson, the mayor of West Kelowna, described the mood in the town as “anxious” due to the escalating wildfire, Al Jazeera reported. “There was so much smoke that it was difficult to gauge what was really going on. But we were able to get air support today, which will help us put out the fire. But unfortunately there was some structure lost last night and today. So we don’t get away with it anyway,” he added.British Columbia fires in high winds and dry sun caused by cold air masses interacting with hot air that accumulates in the humid summer.
In addition, those conditions have multiplied existing wildfires and have also ignited new ones, Al Jazeera reported. “We’re still in some severe dry conditions and are still looking forward to tough days ahead,” said Jerrad Schroeder, deputy fire center director at Kamloops Fire Center.
Furthermore, while asking for help, officials in British Columbia say the province is in dire need of shelter for evacuees and firefighters, and has ordered a ban on non-essential travel to provide temporary accommodation in this situation.