The Canadian province of British Columbia (B.C.) declared a state of emergency late Friday as raging wildfires caused 15,000 people to evacuate and 20,000 were put on evacuation alert.
“In just the last 24 hours, the situation has evolved and deteriorated quite rapidly in just the last hour,” B.C. Premier David Eby said at a news conference.
“Tonight, as a result of this rapid deterioration, we are declaring a provincial state of emergency,” he said. “It communicates to people across the province the seriousness of the deteriorating situation we are facing.”
A significant number of properties have been destroyed in the city of Kelowna area, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported. Kelowna has a population of 150,000.
Flights have been canceled at the Kelowna airport as priority has been given to airplanes fighting the wildfires, according to CBC. There are about 366 fires burning in the province as of late Friday.
Bowinn Ma, B.C. Minister of Emergency Management, said 20,000 residents are under evacuation alert and others in the region should pack and be ready to leave on short notice because the situation is “rapidly escalating.”
At one point, firefighters were trapped as they rescued people who had not evacuated the area as ordered.
“If you get an evacuation order, please leave,” said Eby.