British Columbia evacuates thousands more as wildfires spread

Volunteers man an evacuation center in Kamloops, BC, Canada for residents of the nearby towns of Cache Creek and Ashcroft who have fled wild fires July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Dennis Owen

TORONTO (Reuters) - British Columbia on Monday evacuated thousands more residents from the path of wildfires spreading across the Western Canadian province amid expectations the blazes will grow as forecasters predict more hot, dry weather the week.

British Columbia’s chief fire spokesman Kevin Skrepnek told CBC News that more than 10,000 people had been forced from their homes, up from about 7,000 the previous day.

On Friday, 138 fires started as electrical storms and brisk winds passed through the interior of the bone-dry province, which has not seen significant rains for weeks.

British Columbia declared its first state of emergency since 2003, deploying some 1,600 personnel over the weekend to respond to the fires.

Some 24,000 hectares (59,300 acres) were ravaged by wildfires as of midday Sunday, according to official tallies, but Skrepnek told reporters he believed the extent of the devastation was significantly higher.

British Columbia has announced C$100 million ($78 million) in emergency funds. The Canadian Red Cross will hand out stipends of C$600 to help those displaced by fires and other money will be reserved for rebuilding.

Canada’s military has agreed to supply airplanes and helicopters and put personnel on standby, and other jurisdictions have agreed to send some 260 personnel to help.

Survivors of the May 2016 Fort McMurray blaze, one of the worst fires in Canadian history, organized a drive to send water, fuel and other supplies to British Columbia.

That fire displaced 88,000 people and burned 590,000 hectares.

Reporting by Jim Finkle in Toronto; Editing by James Dalgleish