July 17, 2017 / 6:02 PM / 9 days ago

Canada musters military to fight wildfires as 39,000 evacuated

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CALGARY, Alberta, July 17 (Reuters) - Canada was deploying military aircraft and Australia was sending 50 firefighters to battle rapidly spreading wildfires in British Columbia that have forced 39,000 people from their homes, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Monday.

Goodale told reporters that the provincial government had made two requests of the federal for military assistance to fight the fires, which he said were expected to worsen.

Local governments issued more than a dozen evacuation notices over the weekend, increasing the number of evacuees to 39,000 from 14,000 last week, according to British Columbia's Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

British Columbia, which this month declared its first state of emergency since 2013, has announced C$100 million ($78 million) in emergency funds. The Canadian Red Cross will hand out stipends of C$600 to help displaced people, and other money will be reserved for rebuilding.

Other jurisdictions have agreed to send some 260 personnel to the area.

The fires were burning across an area ranging from 150 km (95 miles) to 350 km (215 miles) northeast of Vancouver and have affected public utilities and industries including timer and mining.

West Fraser Timber Co and privately held Tolko, among the largest Canadian producers of forestry products, and Norbord Inc, the world's largest maker of oriented strand board used in the construction of houses, have suspended some operations. Disruptions were expected to tighten the supply of wood products and raise prices.

Tolko said on Monday that many of its employees had been forced from homes and resources in the city of Kamloops, which has been taking in evacuees, may be quickly overwhelmed.

Major pipeline companies in region, including Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd, a unit of Kinder Morgan Inc, have created fire breaks, installed sprinklers and taken other measures to protect operations.

Enbridge Inc, which has taken a natural gas compressor station offline and canceled planned maintenance work, said on Sunday it had no firm timeline for restarting the station or resuming work.

EnGold Mines Ltd has suspended all exploration in the region and Imperial Metals Corp said it had significantly reduced operations at one of its mines.

In 2016, forest fires in Fort McMurray in neighboring Alberta province displaced 88,000 people and burned 590,000 hectares. (Reporting by Ethan Lou; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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