Take your seats... The jaw-dropping front-row spectacle as wildfire devours Canadian mountains
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 2:40 AM on 06th August 2009
When nature has unleashed its worst, sometimes there's nothing you can do but sit back and watch.
And that's exactly what this group of helicopter pilots did - pulling up chairs to fully take in the fury of a forest fire devouring large swathes of the Canadian province of British Columbia.
The pilots were watching as a controlled fire burned on Mount McLean in the Canadian province of British Columbia in a desperate attempt to reduce the amount of fuel for a wildfire burning on the mountain in the town of Lillooet.
Pull up a pew: Helicopter pilots watch helplessly as a controlled fire burns on Mount McLean in British Columbia yesterday
Helicopter pilot Tim Franke is silhouetted as he checks his cell phone while he refuels a helicopter while the Mount Mclean fire rages in the background
Over 2,500 people were forced from their homes as a fire raged less than a mile (1.6 kilometres) away. Another 120 in nearby Brooksmere were also evacuated.
In all, 3,000 people have been evacuated since Sunday and 85 per cent of British Columbia remains on high alert as lighting strikes and tinder-dry forests continue to fuel the wildfires on Canada's Pacific coast.
British Columbia Forest Service spokeswoman Alyson Couch said Monday conditions remain hot and dry. She said extra fire-fighters from across Canada, and some from Australia, are joining those already in the forests.
A helicopter flies over the Mount Mclean fire behind an evacuated home. In the town of Lillooet, 2,500 people were forced from their homes as a fire raged less than a mile (1.6 kilometres) away
Couch said people have been asked to stay out of the back country to cut the risk of human-caused blazes. Authorities have banned campfires and open burning across British Columbia.
The fires caused a drop in tourist numbers two weeks ago but tourism had been returning to normal, said Catherine Frechette, a tourism spokeswoman in the worst hit region.
Since April, 2,200 fires have torched 170,171 acres (68,867 hectares) compared to 1,066 that burned 27,170 acres (11,000 hectares) last year.
Provincial Premier Gordon Campbell said the wildfire risk is at the highest level in recent memory. The province has endured a heat wave for several weeks.
Most fires are being caused by lightning strikes, Couch said.
It could be at least Wednesday before fire-fighters can expect any reprieve from the weather with some rain forecast.
On Monday, there were 33 'wildfires of note' burning throughout the province.
Many of them left nearby residents on evacuation alerts.
The evacuations of Lillooet and Brooksmere came two weeks after 11,000 were forced to flee their homes near West Kelowna.
In 2003, lightning strikes near Kelowna triggered a fire that scorched 96 square miles (248 sq. kilometres), destroyed more than 200 homes and caused millions of dollars in property damage.
Current weather conditions are similar to those during the 2003 disaster.