From: Reuters
Published July 5, 2006 12:00 AM

Wildfires Force Evacuations in Western Canada

VANCOUVER — Forest fires in two Canadian provinces have forced the evacuation of at least 5,500 people living in rural and northern communities, officials said Tuesday.


About 3,500 residents of Tumbler Ridge, in the northeast region of the Western Canadian province of British Columbia, were ordered out of their homes late on Monday as a forest fire raged toward the community and crews used heavy equipment and helicopters struggled to control the 11,000-hectare Hourglass Blaze.


No injuries were reported, and the evacuated residents were given emergency shelter in neighboring towns.


Tumbler Ridge is about 1,150 km northeast of Vancouver, not far from the Alberta border.


The fire, which was burning about 20 km northeast of the coal mining and forest industry town, was started last week by a lightning strike, according to the British Columbia Forest Service.


Lightning and warm and dry conditions have caused many of the 109 wild fires burning in northern Saskatchewan -- also in Western Canada -- placing six communities under evacuation orders and threatening three others, said Steve Roberts of Saskatchewan Environment during a press conference Tuesday.


"Most of those are either just being held or are out of control," Roberts said of the forest fires.


Over 64 fires affected areas of more than 100 hectares (250 acres) each in size and 17 fires were estimated at 10,000 ha (25,000 acres).


While the number of fires is within the province's 10-year average, the high number of simultaneous large fires is straining its fire-fighting abilities, Roberts said.


More than 1,900 evacuees have been registered, while some people have remained in the communities in a bid to protect infrastructure, said emergency coordinator Richard Kent.


"We've got fires that have actually encroached to the edge of the communities themselves," Kent said.


Significant structural damage had not been reported.


Source: Reuters


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