Fires prompt state of emergency in western Canada
Montreal (AFP) July 8, 2017 - British Columbia has declared a state of emergency in response to forest fires that have forced the evacuation of thousands of people in Canada's westernmost province.
"Given the current wildfire situation and the expected increase in wildfire activity, the province is taking this extraordinary measure of declaring a provincial state of emergency," Todd Stone, the province's transportation and emergency management chief, said in a statement late Friday.
Hot, dry weather has fueled the blazes, with 138 new fire starts reported on Friday alone.
Environment Canada said much of southern British Columbia was under threat of forest fires.
Residents were ordered to evacuate the villages of Ashcroft, where a hospital was closed as a precaution, and Cache Creek in the province's Thompson-Nicola district, Stone said.
More than 3,600 people were forced to leave their homes in the Kamloops district, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Ashcroft.
The first major wildfires after the end of California's five-year drought raged across the state Saturday, as the state was gripped by a record-breaking heatwave.
Around 2,300 firefighters were battling several blazes with triple-digit temperatures recorded in valleys and inland areas.
A wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento was only five percent contained by late afternoon and had destroyed 10 homes, scorching 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of forest and sparking small-scale evacuations.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said five residents and a firefighter had sustained minor injuries.
Meanwhile a blaze that forced evacuations in Santa Barbara County doubled in size overnight to 5,750 acres, fanned by hot, dry winds.
Some 17 wildfires in various states of containment were burning in California Saturday, from the Six Rivers National Forest in the north to the San Bernardino Forest, east of Los Angeles.
An excessive heat warning has been extended until 11:00 pm (0600 GMT) for much of southern California, with temperature records being broken across the region.
Downtown Los Angeles tied the 1954 record of 96 degrees Farenheit (36 Celcius) while the city's northwestern suburb of Woodland Hills reached a high of 109 degrees, breaking the record of 108 set in 2006.
"Dangerous and potentially life-threatening heat is expected through (today), when high temperatures between 100 and 110 degrees are expected for many interior sections of southwest California," the National Weather Service (NWS) said in a statement.
The weather service attributed the heat wave to a "strong upper-level high-pressure system centered over the desert southwest," adding that the heatwave could continue into Sunday.
"Hot temperatures will create a dangerous situation in which there is an increased threat of heat-related illnesses. The extended heat wave will also bring elevated fire weather conditions through the weekend," said the NWS.
California Governor Jerry Brown in April declared the official end of the state's drought that lasted more than five years.
But he kept in place water reporting requirements, as well as bans on practices like watering during or following rainfall and hosing off sidewalks.
"This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner," Brown said in a statement.
"Conservation must remain a way of life."
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