[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 August, 2003, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Despair of Canada fire evacuees
Thermal image of a 21-mile fire across the Thompson River from Kamloops
Thermal images show the fires to be worse than first thought

Some residents in western Canada are beginning to return home after they were forced to flee the worst forest fires in recent history.

As many as 11,000 people in British Columbia and Alberta have been evacuated from their homes as blazes swept across parched forests and grasslands.

But with no major rainfall forecast for several days, officials say there is little prospect of relief in the coming days.

British Colombia has declared a state of emergency and is calling on the government to give federal aid.

More than 87,000 acres (35,000 hectares) have been scorched by six fires in the Kamloops area - 150 miles (240 kilometres) north east of Vancouver - in the past two weeks.

Residents in the Rayleigh suburb of Kamloops were able to return home on Tuesday having been evacuated at the weekend.

Although most homes were still standing, the stench of the fire had left its mark.

"I'm delighted that we're allowed back home but I won't be staying here," said resident Joyce Blackburn.

Discarded cigarette

In Barriere - one of the worst hit areas - burned telephone poles hung from wires while many houses were gutted.

"This town is going to be hurting for a long time. I guess I'm lucky it's still here," Wayne McGregor, a resident who was allowed to return home, told Reuters news agency.

Residents in Falkland - about 60 miles south east of Kamloops - were less fortunate.

Some complained they were not being told if their homes were still standing - others pleaded desperately for passes into restricted areas to feed their animals.

At least one of the blazes is thought to have been started by a discarded cigarette.

Fire behaviour expert Al Beaver said a good five days of rain was needed to help stop the fires.

"I've never experienced fuels at the dryness level they are here," he said.

"Right now nature is really holding all the trump cards."

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell said: "This is the worst situation we've had and the driest circumstances that we've measured in the last 50 years.

"In all likelihood British Columbians have never lived through a drier forest situation than we are living through this summer."

Are you affected by the wildfires in Canada?

We are on "extreme" fire alert
Jeremy, Canada
Here in the vast forests of the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan area, we are on "extreme" fire alert, the highest possible. One lightning strike and we're in big trouble. It's a shame to see the result of years of mismanagement of our forest resources (by not allowing small fires to run their natural course) result in such major conflagrations that destroy huge tracts of beautiful wilderness.
Jeremy, Canada

The smoke from these fires creates a dense haze that obscures any view of the Rocky Mountain Foothills from the city of Calgary, Alberta. Usually very prominent from the city. Calgary is approx. 650km and 8 hours by car away from Kamloops, across the continental divide.
MattG, Canada

There are many different types of aircraft and helicopters engaged in fighting the BC fires but one of the most interesting is the Martin Mars, a giant 4-engined beast that I have watched in action several times [Used to be on the firelines myself]. It can operate for 6 hours, dropping 30 tons of water/foam every 15 minutes, replenishing 'on the fly' from nearby water sources, scooping up a ton a second. It is extraordinary to watch a plane that size essentially flying below sea-level to fill the drop tanks. I believe the record Mars sortie was just under 6 hours and delivered one million litres to the fire site.
Jim Hendry, Canada

I was one of hundreds of people that lost property and was injured in our summer bushfires earlier this year in Australia. I was trapped in a small house as it burnt down around us and was burnt in the process but survived. The real shock came hours later from smoke inhalation that left many of us in a critical condition. Authorities and families should insist anyone who has inhaled large amounts of smoke, particularly those trapped in houses to go to hospital and have their oxygen levels checked. It may well save their lives.
Scott Cardamatis, Australia

My sister had to be evacuated from her home
Michael Rawlins, Canada
My sister had to be evacuated from her home just north of Kamloops. She lives (lived) in a small community called Pinnantan Lake. I went over to help her move and the sight of all of the smoke and fire was, in a word, unbelievable. Dantes inferno has been realized.
Michael Rawlins, Canada

I went outside last week and the whole valley was full of smoke from a fire just over the hill. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I thought "Oh Oh. This is going to be a new experience".
Lindsey Armstrong, Canada (formerly of Scotland)

Well, I have just returned from a days hiking in Banff National Park with my wife and daughter. Its 1 am and it is throwing it down - and I mean rain, rain and more heavy rain. There was smoke around Banff yesterday but not as much today. Hopefully the rain will sort this out.
Carl Machin, Alberta, Canada

I have never seen anything like this in my life!
Beth Boyd, Scotland
We are on holiday in this area and yesterday while visiting Maligne Lake near Jasper, Alberta, a forest fire literally started 2 kilometres before our eyes. We were having lunch and saw smoke, then almost immediately flames roared into the air. The staff at the Maligne lake visitor centre asked everyone to evacuate and go back to Jasper which is the nearest town about 25 miles away! I have never seen anything like this in my life! It's a very worrying situation for the Canadians with jobs and homes here!
Beth Boyd, Scotland

It's a real shame because it's so beautiful up there... also there are a lot of black bears and wildlife which are going to be affected. You might even see the bears been driven down to the city limits.
Nat, UK

Just a note to tell Nat in the UK not to worry overly much about the black bears and other wildlife. The fires are a tremendous tragedy, but this is mostly in human terms. Fires are actually an integral part of the life cycle of forests and the lush vegetation that quickly grows back is a boon to many animals, especially bears who like to eat the many types of berries that occur in the new growth.
Greg , Canada

My future brother-in-law and his fiancée were to marry in four weeks' time in the National Park surrounding Kamloops but now that roads have been closed, they have been forced to re-locate their wedding to Vancouver.
Karen Grant, Canada

The planes are so big that it is possible to drive a medium-sized speed boat under the wings while they are floating on a lake.
Rory, England

A month of clear sky and extreme temperature has created perfect conditions for fires to be started by mostly careless individuals, causing destruction of homes, lumber mills, businesses, property and so far the severe injury of one person attempting to help save a friend's home.
Terrance Snider, Canada

Here, in Penticton, we are surrounded by fires, and the sky is white with smoke. No fires locally, yet. And I believe the water bombers are dumping retardant, not water on the Barriere fire.
Katie Arthur, Canada

Canada blazes send smoke south
08 Jul 02  |  Americas
Country profile: Canada
10 May 03  |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific