Thousands flee from Canadian forest fires


Wildfires raging in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta are said to be the worst in 50 years, and have consumed dozens of buildings and forced 11,000 people to leave their homes.

British Columbia's two most serious fires were north and west of Kamloops, about 180 miles north-east of Vancouver.

The larger of the two had increased to 2,125 acres by late yesterday, as flames swept through forests and grasslands dried by a hot summer with little recent rain.

Alberta officials ordered the evacuation of another 1,000 people from the town of Blairmore, adding to the 1,100 who already fled the region.

While no deaths have been reported, British Columbia declared a state of emergency to hasten federal help, with firefighters from neighbouring Alberta and Ontario provinces arriving to help battle 350 blazes. Soldiers have also been dispatched.

In Alberta, another cluster of fires threatened two communities in a mountainous region near the border with Montana.

Plumes of smoke drifted over Kamloops as officials hurried to co-ordinate 700 firefighters battling blazes on the surrounding mountainsides.

"We were overwhelmed at the start of it," Kamloops Deputy Fire Chief Dave Marcotte said. "Our resources are back up, our men are rested and we are ready to tackle anything that happens."