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Wildfires Burn Out of Control in Western Canada - 2003-08-03


Wild fires are burning out of control in the western Canadian province of British Columbia. Vast expanses of land have been scorched and thousands have been evacuated from their homes northeast of Vancouver.

The situation for those fighting the fires is getting worse. Some of the largest fires, which have already caused widespread damage, appear to be growing in size. One of the larger blazes actually jumped over the North Thompson River, a major waterway that leads to the town of Kamloops.

An extended summer drought, hot temperatures, and fierce winds continue to hamper firefighters. The weather forecast is calling for slightly cooler temperatures, but thundershowers could bring lightening strikes. It is suspected that half of the more than 350 fires currently burning around the province were started by lightening, the rest by humans.

By Saturday night, approximately 75 houses, 150 outbuildings, and some businesses were destroyed around the small rural towns of McLure and Barriere.

At least 8,500 people in total have been forced from their homes, with more evacuations pending.

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell declared a province-wide state of emergency Saturday. Military personnel and firefighters from across Canada have been called in to assist local authorities.

A fire in neighboring Washington state, which has been burning since the end of June, is also threatening to cross the Canadian-American border. Major fires are also burning in the states of Idaho and Montana. The Canadian province of Alberta has also seen several blazes force people from their homes.

So far only one injury is reported in the British Columbia fires. A 53-year old man was burned on his face and upper body while trying save a neighbors house.

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