AFP - Thousands of residents in British Columbia were ordered to leave their homes Saturday as more than 500 fires raged out of control in the state, fueled by dry forests and record-high temperatures.
"Our province is facing the highest levels of wildfire risk in memory," Gordon Campbell, the province's premier, told the CBC network on Friday.
"Record high temperatures have created a serious situation. They can best be described as a tinder dry. The forests across this province are in probably the driest situation they've been that any of us can recall."
Temperatures in some parts of the state have hit over 36 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit) for several days running, according to Environment Canada.
"Right now, there are 531 forest fires currently burning," Campbell said.
Evacuation orders have already been issued for some communities, the CBC reported, while an additional 3,000 people were told to be ready to leave their homes.
Some 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes in the town of Fintry on Saturday, just two days after being allowed to return.
British Columbia is spending three million Canadian dollars (2.8 million US dollars) a day fighting the blazes, the network reported.
Campbell asked area residents to abstain from entering the forest in order to avoid any risk of either being trapped in a forest fire or accidentally starting a new blaze.
Since April 1 firefighters in British Columbia have responded to 1,817 wildfires that have burned some 51,042 hectares (126,127 acres) of forests and grasslands, according to Campbell's office.
By comparison, at the same point in 2003 there were 959 fires and 31,000 hectares (76,603 acres) burned, his office said.
A fire sparked by a lightning bolt that struck late Thursday near the Whistler ski resort, a venue of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, was under control and the site remained open, an organizing committee official told AFP.