11,000 Canadians flee forest fires

KELOWNA: About 11,000 residents of a subdivision threatened by a forest fire in southern British Columbia have been evacuated, officials said Sunday.

Helicopters, air tankers and firefighters were attacking the 3.5-square-kilometer (1.35-square-mile) blaze raging behind the Glenrosa subdivision, some 275 kilometers (170 miles) east of Vancouver.

"You had to get out. We just did what we were told. We just picked up our belongings and got out," Wilf Carey said as he went in to register at the evacuee center.

Carey's house was among 6,500 homes deemed in danger. At least three homes were destroyed, but no casualties were reported.

Another 6,000 people in the West Kelowna subdivision were told to be on evacuation alert, according to updated figures released by Jeanne Rucker, of the British Columbia Forest Service.

Hotel rooms throughout the area quickly booked up Saturday night, leaving no vacancies.

It's not clear what caused the blaze, though Assistant Fire Chief Lou Wilde hinted strongly it may have been human-caused. "I'm quite certain lightning wasn't a factor," Wilde said.

A second fire was burning about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) north at the nearby Rose Valley Reservoir, where another 1,500 homes were under evacuation alert. A third fire, further north at Fintry, was also burning.

In 2003, lightning strikes triggered a fire that scorched 250 square kilometres (96 square miles), destroyed more than 200 homes and caused millions of dollars in property damage.