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Updated: Sat, 09 Aug 2014 22:44:24 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

B.C. wildfires: 80 Australian firefighters headed to Canada



A 30-hectare wildfire burns near Highway 97C early Friday morning. castanet.net

A 30-hectare wildfire burns near Highway 97C early Friday morning. castanet.net

Eighty Australian firefighters have been deployed to British Columbia, where fires have destroyed 200,000 hectares of land, the largest area scorched in the province since the 1950s.

Some of the firefighters left Melbourne and Sydney on Saturday morning, while others will leave next week.

They will join another 110 firefighters from Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba —  the latest in a series of out-of-province deployments to B.C. that began in late July.

There are currently 10 major wildfires covering hundreds of square kilometres burning in B.C., and more than 100 smaller ones.

The state of Victoria in Australia is co-ordinating the Australian effort, and Darrin McKenzie, from the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries, said conditions would be challenging.

"[Canada has] had a long fire season so far, their crews are getting tired and fatigue is becoming an issue for them, so they've requested some assistance," McKenzie said.

"It's very hot and very dry. There are a number of large fires burning and they've got new fires starting almost every day at the moment," he said.

"The conditions are very similar to Victoria; it's a very fire-prone area. They have large tracts of forested area, very rugged mountain terrain.

"We've got incident management teams heading across, and we also have specialist roles in terms of fire commanders and fire behaviour specialists."

Peachland fire

Meanwhile, the Drought Hill fire burning near Peachland is now surrounded with fire retardant, and according to the wildfire management branch, is deemed 60 per cent guarded and 25 per cent contained.

The local state of emergency and evacuation order for one endangered home have both been rescinded, although an evacuation alert remains in place.

Highway 97C has been reopened to traffic. At one point, the fire was burning close to the highway and it had been down to single-lane traffic

Kootenay Fires

Over the last week, wildfire management in the Kootenays reported 84 lightning-caused fires.

The Slocan Park fire has reached 120 hectares in size, causing an evacuation alert for residents of Slocan Park and Crescent Valley from 2826 to 3021 on Highway 6. 

The Whitetail Brook fire, eight kilometres east of Canal Flats, is about 1,700 hectares in size, but is 50 per cent contained, according to B.C. Wildfire Management.

MAP: Slocan Park Fire and Canal Flats

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