British Columbia

Prime Minister Stephen Harper thanks B.C., Saskatchewan fire crews

Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to British Columbia's fire-ravaged B.C. Interior to personally thank emergency crews who have battled stubborn blazes for weeks across B.C. and Saskatchewan.

'We know these are tough and sometimes dangerous jobs,' Harper says

A water tanker drops a load of water on a wildfire in West Kelowna, B.C. The Westside Road wildfire burning near the city continues to grow and remains completely uncontained, despite increased resources. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to British Columbia's fire-ravaged B.C. Interior to personally thank emergency crews who have battled stubborn blazes for weeks across B.C. and Saskatchewan.

"I just want to take the opportunity ...  to thank all of the firefighters and all of the first responders who have been working so hard all through the summer," Harper told reporters near Kelowna, B.C., where a wildfire continues to grow.

​The prime minister, who was joined by B.C. Premier Christy Clark, shook hands with fire crew members before speaking briefly to reporters.

"We know these are tough and sometimes dangerous jobs and these efforts really are appreciated by everybody."

Fire post-mortem

Harper promised that once the fires are contained, federal officials will take a second look at firefighting efforts in B.C. and Saskatchewan.

"When the dust settles, so to speak on all of this, we're obviously going to sit down and assess what new or different needs to be done in the future, what we can do in terms of co-ordination, better co-ordination of resources, mitigation."

Harper said the fire containment efforts in Saskatchewan and B.C. were well co-ordinated.

"Meantime, we'll get these fires put out and we'll look at what has to be done in the future."

The Westside Road wildfire burning near West Kelowna continues to grow despite increased resources. 

There are now 60 firefighters, four helicopters and four pieces of heavy equipment fighting the fire, which increased to 460 hectares from 430 overnight. 

Despite the fire's growth, crews say they're making progress.

Homes threatened

Last night the crews appeared to be focusing their efforts on the southern flank of the fire, which is threatening the 70 lakeside homes on Westside Road that are on evacuation order. 

Steep terrain and dry conditions continue to challenge firefighting efforts.

BC Hydro said 1,100 homes continue to be without power. However, it will provide 900 of them with six hours of power on a rotating basis from a different circuit.

The firefighters might get some relief, as the weather forecast calls for rain in Kelowna over the weekend. But the hot, dry conditions are expected to return by Monday.

A smoky skies advisory remains in effect for the Okanagan areas. People with heart or lung conditions may be more susceptible to the effects of smoke, which may include difficulty breathing and chest pain. 

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