State of emergency extended in western Canada over wildfires

Fires have raged across western Canada for the better part of two months, including in and around Cache Creek, as seen here (AFP Photo/Don MacKinnon)

Montreal (AFP) - A state of emergency was extended Friday in Canada's western province of British Columbia, where thousands of firefighters have been battling wildfires for months.

The announcement marks the fourth time the state of emergency has been renewed in the province since it was issued on July 7.

The order allows for the mobilization of firefighting resources and the mandatory evacuation of citizens where fires are encroaching on residential areas.

British Columbia has experienced its worst wildfire season ever, as temperatures have soared and precipitation remained unusually low.

Most of the 50,000 people who were forced to flee have been able to return to their homes, but 3,600 are still subject to evacuation orders.

As of Friday, there were 160 active fires in British Columbia.

Since April, more than one million hectares (nearly 2.5 million acres) of forests have been destroyed by fire -- the largest area burned on record.

The largest of the fires, dubbed Plateau, burned for two months and now covers 493,000 hectares in a sparsely populated mountainous region west of the town of Quesnel.

Some 600 firefighters, 30 helicopters and 89 pieces of heavy machinery for moving dirt have been deployed to battle the Plateau fire, said the wildfire service.

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