British Columbia in State of Emergency as 19,000 Flee Yellowknife Fire

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The premier of the Canadian province of British Columbia has declared a state of emergency, saying authorities there were “facing the worst wildfire season ever”, as thousands were evacuated from cities east of Vancouver.

Premier David Eby said on Friday night: “Over the past 24 hours, the situation has evolved rapidly and we are in for an extremely challenging situation in the days ahead.”


Firefighters are battling the out of control McDougall Creek wildfire which has raged across 10,500 hectares amid gusty conditions in the hills and mountains above the city of West Kelowna, forcing thousands of evacuations. West Kelowna, a city of 36,000 people, lies 300km (180 miles) east of Vancouver.

Evacuations were also being carried out in nearby Kelowna, a city with a population of about 150,000 that lies across Okanagan Lake from West Kelowna.

It came as authorities further north in the Northwest Territories region said more than 19,000 people are believed to have evacuated from the wildfires threatening the city of Yellowknife. Fire crews there are working around the clock to dig fuel breaks, spread fire retardant and drop water from the air in emergency efforts to protect the city of 20,000. Cloud cover and cooler temperatures slowed the fire west of Yellowknife on Friday, firefighters said.

An estimated 4,000 people were taken out by air, with the possibility of more flights on Saturday if the weather, planes and crew hold out. The province’s environment minister, Shane Thompson, said about 1,000 essential staff were remaining but urged anyone else to leave.
 
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