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BC  

'A lot of devastation'

Residents of a tiny northwestern British Columbia town ravaged by a massive wildfire are determined to extinguish the flames and rebuild their community, family members say.

Dan Edzerza Sr. and his daughter Kristina Michaud are collecting donations of money and dried goods for evacuees after a 360-square-kilometre blaze destroyed more than 40 homes and properties in Telegraph Creek.

"There's been a lot of devastation there," said Edzerza, speaking from Prince George.

"A lot of my family members lost their homes. It's still not over yet, they're still trying to stop that fire."

The provincial government declared a state of emergency Wednesday as more than 560 wildfires burn in every corner of the province. Residents of about 1,500 properties have been forced to evacuate, while 9,500 more must be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.

Many people connected to Telegraph Creek are pitching in to help those displaced and save the town. Edzerza's son is among those fighting the fire in Telegraph Creek, while Michaud's sister is collecting donations in nearby Dease Lake.

"That's their home. They're going to go back and set up tents if they have to," said Michaud. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure they have a home to go back to. That land is our roots."

Smoke has triggered air quality advisories across Western Canada, and Michaud said it was so smoky in Prince George that it was dark at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. When she went looking for masks, they were sold out everywhere.

"It's just awful here," she said.

About 250 members of the Tahltan Nation and non-Indigenous residents live in Telegraph Creek. All have been evacuated, but some members of the First Nation have stayed behind to fight the fires, said Chief Rick Mclean.

Most Tahltan members who lost homes have been notified, he said, adding about 21 of the destroyed structures are on the reserve.

"It's heart-wrenching and worrisome, thinking about how we're going to rebuild," he said. "It's going to take some time. There's a lot of work that needs to be done to make it safe. We're still under evacuation order and fighting the fight."

The federal government has promised to send 200 Canadian Armed Forces members to B.C. to help. A first team of 100 was deployed early Thursday to an area west of Kelowna to start the mop-up of contained fires.

The Department of National Defence said it's still working with the BC Wildfire Service to determine where and when the other troops will be needed.



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