Canada wildfires: 35,000 people ordered to evacuate as hundreds of fires rage in British Columbia

Canadian firefighters are battling to prevent wildfires from destroying more of British Columbia

At least 35,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes in the Canadian province of British Columbia as firefighters tackle hundreds of fires ripping through the west of the country.

The provincial government has issued a state of emergency and urged people not to travel to the central and southeast portions of the province due to “significant” wildfire activity.

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Broland said there is a "glimmer of hope" as the weather allowed fire crews to make progress in the Lake Okanagan region of southern British Columbia.

But hundreds more fires remain ablaze.

“It is still very much dynamic,” said Jerrad Schroeder, a British Columbia Wildfire Service chief. “There’s still portions of this fire that we just have not prioritised.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the approval of British Columbia’s request for federal assistance and said the government was sending equipment from the Canadian Armed Forces to assist in evacuations.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is 'comforting' to see 'Canadians pull together'

Despite the advances made by firefighters in the Lake Okanagan region, which includes Kelowna, a city of 150,000 people about 90 miles north of the US border, fire chief Broland conceded that “some may be coming back to nothing” when evacuees are allowed to return.

“Some of you have lost your homes. There’s no question about that,” he said.

“There are lots of backyards where the fire has come right to your patio furniture. And it’s been stopped there because of the work of the 500 people that are on the ground fighting. ”

The McDougall Creek wildfire burns on the mountainside above houses in West Kelowna on Friday Credit: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP

In northern Canada, firefighters continued to battle a blaze that threatened Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories.

The city is now virtually empty after nearly all of its 20,000 residents fled for safety.

That blaze is one of 237 wildfires burning in the Northwest Territories.

Thick smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia hangs in the air on the Trans-Canada Highway. Credit: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP

In a Facebook post, Yellowknife officials said they were working with 20 contractors and 75 volunteers to establish wildfire defence lines around the city, such as fire breaks, water sprinklers and cannons, and aircraft dropping fire retardant. A protective line of 15.5 miles has been established.

Shane Thompson, the province's environment minister said the fire was “unlikely to reach the outskirts of the community today or tomorrow.”

Yellowknife evacuees line up to register for a flight to Calgary on Thursday Credit: Bill Braden /The Canadian Press via AP

In Hay River, 120 miles south of Yellowknife, it might be weeks before the community's 3,800 residents can return home.

Similarly in Fort Smith, southeast of Yellowknife and just north of the Alberta border, the town of about 2,600 remained under an evacuation order on Sunday.

A free campsite was set up for evacuees in High Level, Alberta. Credit: Bill Braden /The Canadian Press via AP

Canada has seen a record number of wildfires this year that have also caused smoke to drift into parts of the US.

There have been more than 5,700 fires, which have burned more than 53,000 square miles from one end of Canada to the other, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

There are still more than 1,000 active fires in the country, according to the agency.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...