'There's been a lot of devastation:' man whose family lost homes in B.C. fire | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'There's been a lot of devastation:' man whose family lost homes in B.C. fire

The Shovel Lake wildfire is pictured in this photo submitted by the B.C. Wildfire Service, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/B.C. Wildfire Service
August 16, 2018 - 6:30 PM

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - Residents of a tiny northwestern British Columbia town ravaged by a massive wildfire are determined to extinguish the flames and rebuild their community, family members say.

Dan Edzerza Sr. and his daughter Kristina Michaud are collecting donations of money and dried goods for evacuees after a 360-square-kilometre blaze destroyed more than 40 homes and properties in Telegraph Creek.

"There's been a lot of devastation there," said Edzerza, speaking from Prince George, B.C.

"A lot of my family members lost their homes. It's still not over yet, they're still trying to stop that fire."

The provincial government declared a state of emergency Wednesday as more than 560 wildfires burn in every corner of the province. Residents of about 1,500 properties have been forced to evacuate, while 9,500 more must be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.

Many people connected to Telegraph Creek are pitching in to help those displaced and save the town. Edzerza's son is among those fighting the fire in Telegraph Creek, while Michaud's sister is collecting donations in nearby Dease Lake.

"That's their home. They're going to go back and set up tents if they have to," said Michaud. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure they have a home to go back to. That land is our roots."

Smoke has triggered air quality advisories across Western Canada, and Michaud said it was so smoky in Prince George that it was dark at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. When she went looking for masks, they were sold out everywhere.

"It's just awful here," she said.

The federal government has promised to send 200 Canadian Armed Forces members to help. A first team of 100 was deployed early Thursday to an area west of Kelowna to start the mop-up of contained fires.

The Department of National Defence said it's still working with the BC Wildfire Service to determine where and when the other troops will be needed.

Fire crews from across the province are also pitching in to fight the flames. Vancouver Fire Chief Darrell Reid said on social media Thursday that city fire trucks and crews were on their way north to Fort St. James.

The fire vehicles will be shipped on flatbed trucks for the 15-hour journey, he said.

Thirty-six new fires started between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon, mostly sparked by lightning, said wildfire service spokeswoman Kyla Fraser.

The greatest area of concern is a corridor between Smithers and Prince George in north-central B.C., where many of the biggest fires are burning, she said.

A wildfire about 30 kilometres northeast of Burns Lake has doubled in size in recent days to 680 square kilometres, making it the largest in the province. There are 113 firefighters battling the blaze along with support workers, aircraft and heavy equipment, said Fraser.

As for the fire in Telegraph Creek, crews are facing difficult weather including hot, dry conditions and forecasted winds, she said.

Erma Bourquin, a resident of Iskut, about three hours from Telegraph Creek, said about 90 evacuees from the town sought refuge in her community.

About half of them have already moved on to other communities, she added.

The air is so smoky there that one resident hasn't been able to leave her house for days because of her respiratory problems, Bourquin said.

She said she's prepared to leave Iskut if an evacuation order is issued and has packed a bag with family photographs.

"There are mixed emotions, some are hopeful," Bourquin said.

"There are a lot who have fear, especially when it gets really smoky here. And it's a loss for some of (the evacuees) because some of them have lost their homes."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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