One wildfire-hit community in Western Canada able to return home

Wildfire fighters eat dinner in a dining tent after returning to their camp in the town of Cache Creek, British Columbia, Canada July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Residents of one British Columbia town would be allowed to return home on Tuesday as wildfires that forced them to flee 11 days ago receded in parts of the Western Canadian province, emergency officials said.

Although fires are still burning in the area of Cache Creek, a ranching community of 1,000 residents some 350 kilometers (219 miles) northeast of Vancouver, the threat has reduced, British Columbia chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said.

“Certainly we are seeing the numbers of active fires decreasing,” Skrepnek said on a conference call with reporters.

Officials said rain expected in parched, fire-hit parts of the province on Thursday would bring some welcome relief although it also brought the risk of lightning, which has been blamed for starting several fires.

The fires, in an area between 150 km to 350 km northeast of Vancouver, have shut copper mines and timber operations in south-central British Columbia and threatened cattle operations.

Skrepnek said there were 155 fires across the province, including nine new fires since Monday. That was down from 162 on Sunday.

The estimated area of land burnt since the beginning of the wildfire season was 327,000 hectares, costing the province C$98.4 million ($77.93 million).

An estimated 45,806 people had been evacuated province-wide, Robert Turner, assistant deputy manager of Emergency Management B.C. said. That was up from a 39,000 estimate on Monday, largely due to more detailed information coming available to emergency services, he said.

Reporting by Nicole Mordant; Editing by Sandra Maler