Hiker rescued after encountering wall of flame from southeastern B.C. wildfire

FILE PHOTO - The sun is obscured by smoke from wildfires as an RCMP helicopter flies over Kelowna, B.C., on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

INVERMERE, B.C. - RCMP in British Columbia say a backcountry hiker had to be plucked from the path of an oncoming wildfire in the southeastern corner of the province.

Columbia Valley RCMP Sgt. Bob Vatamaniuk says the man was hiking north of the Columbia Valley when he reported he was met by a wall of flames.

Vatamaniuk says the hiker had been on the trail in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park for six days and was low on energy and supplies when he realized he was in danger.

The man activated his handheld satellite communication system, sending a coded call for help to a centre in Houston.

In turn, the centre relayed the call to B.C., where police contacted a local search and rescue team.

Vatamaniuk says even before the team was able to set out, the man had been picked up and airlifted to safety by a helicopter crew working on the nearby wildfire.

"Knowing that he couldn't turn around and walk another six days, he initiated his SOS request," Vatamaniuk said.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Mount Assiniboine wildfire remains active.

It was sparked by lightning on July 15 and has burned 48-square kilometres of woodland in the provincial park, which is next to Banff National Park.

Federal and provincial ministers met Tuesday in Vancouver and announced $20 million to help ranchers recover from the more than 1,000 wildfires that have scorched huge tracts of land since the start of the fire season on April 1.

The Cariboo Regional District, which includes the City of Williams Lake in central B.C., said this week that at least 62 homes and 140 outbuildings have been destroyed by several massive wildfires that broke out following lightning storms in early July.


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