21 August 2023

Canadian firefighters make progress battling some blazes

21 August 2023

Canadian firefighters have made some progress battling blazes in a British Columbia region known for picturesque resort towns, but hundreds more raging across the province have pushed thousands from their homes.

There is “finally a bit of a glimmer of hope,” West Kelowna fire chief Jason Broland told a news conference of the progress being made in the Lake Okanagan region, which is known as a summer destination for families.

“The weather has allowed us to make progress,” he said, adding that crews were able to conduct more traditional firefighting techniques such as putting out hot spots.

More than 1,200 miles away, firefighters fought flames bearing down on Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories.

The fire remained about nine miles from the city, which was left virtually empty after nearly all of its 20,000 residents fled for safety.

“Even as things dried out and fire behaviour picked up, we were able to do some good suppression work form the air and limit the progression,” fire information officer Mike Westwick said at a media briefing on Sunday night.

Canada has seen a record number of wildfires this year that have also caused choking smoke in parts of the US. All told, there have been more than 5,700 fires, which have burned more than 53,000 square miles from one end of Canada to the other, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

Hundreds of fires continued to rage across British Columbia and 35,000 people were under evacuation orders on Sunday.

“It is still very much dynamic,” said Jerrad Schroeder, a British Columbia Wildfire Service chief. “There’s still portions of this fire that we just have not prioritised.”

Fire chief Mr Broland also conceded that “some may be coming back to nothing” when evacuees are allowed to return.

“Some of you have lost your homes. There’s no question about that,” he said. “There are lots of backyards where the fire has come right to your patio furniture. And it’s been stopped there because of the work of the 500 people that are on the ground fighting. ”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the approval of British Columbia’s request for federal assistance.

“We’ll continue to be here with whatever support is needed,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In a Facebook post, Yellowknife officials said they were working to establish wildfire defence lines around the city, creating fire breaks and using water sprinklers, cannons and aircraft dropping fire retardant.

“We are not out of the woods yet as many factors can change the status of a fire quickly,” the post said.

Shane Thompson, the province’s environment minister said the fire was “unlikely to reach the outskirts of the community today or tomorrow”.

Still, in Hay River, evacuees could be looking at weeks before they can return home, Mayor Kandis Jameson said in a Sunday morning statement to the community’s 3,800 residents. Warm, dry weather and steady winds are forecast for the upcoming week, she said.

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