Canadian wildfires bode ill if summer stays dry

Mon Jul 20, 2009 5:28pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Calm overnight winds aided Canadian firefighters on Monday as they struggled to control forest fires that have displaced thousands in a wine-producing and resort region of central British Columbia.

The three fires were likely sparked by human activity, and an official said they are a troubling sign of how the rest of wildfire season will go in the region, which is suffering some of the driest conditions in Canada this summer.

Calmer overnight winds meant there was no significant growth in two fires that have forced evacuations near the city of Kelowna, according to the British Columbia Forest Service. A third fire was not burning near populated areas.

"Crews are hoping to aggressively attack the fires," Fire Information Officer Elise Riedlinger said.

About 17,000 people in the District of West Kelowna, along the shores of Okanagan Lake, have been evacuated or told to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice because of the fires, which began on Saturday.

Kelowna, in the Okanagan Valley of south-central British Columbia, is about a 250-mile drive east of Vancouver. It is the heart of Canada's West Coast wine industry and a popular vacation spot.


All three fires were believed caused by human activity. Officials said they may have been sparked by something such as carelessly discarded cigarette.   Continued...

<p>A forest fire burns on the edge of Kelowna, British Columbia, northeast of Vancouver, July 19, 2009. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>