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Western Canada firefighters bracing for massive spread of wildfires

Jesse Winter/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(BRITISH COLUMBIA, Canada) — Fire officials in British Columbia warned they would be facing “the most challenging 24 to 48 hours of the summer,” as wildfires that have been ravaging western Canada all week are expected to increase and impact more areas.

Over 370 wildfires have been raging since the beginning of the week throughout the territory, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC).

Two wildfires of note, the Stein Mountain wildfire, which was discovered on July 12, and the McDougall Creek Wildfire, which was discovered on Tuesday, are classified as “out of control” and have burned through a combined 790 hectares as of Thursday evening, according to the British Columbia Wildfire Service.

Cliff Chapman, the British Columbia director of wildfire operations, said in a statement that he is expecting more wildfires to erupt.

“We are expecting significant growth and we are expecting our resources to be challenged from north to south in the province over the next 48 hours,” he said in a statement. “Those fires will challenge even our air tanker and helicopter resources and our ground resources as we are likely to see a number of new fires happening across the province.”

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High winds in western Canada have been contributing to the spread of the flames, officials said. Several B.C. towns and cities have issued evacuation orders and alerts over the wildfires.

A local state of emergency was issued for the city of West Kelowna, a portion of Westbank First Nation and the Central Okanagan West Electoral Thursday. Sixty-eight properties located off Bear Creek Road were ordered to evacuate.

Residents of Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith were also ordered to evacuate this week because of the fires.

Chapman warned that 28 of B.C.’s 34 water basins continue to be operating at worst or second-worst drought levels while fighting the blazes.

“So the drought situation is serious in British Columbia…and the impacts of drought conditions in certain B.C. watersheds will be serious as well,” he said.

Canada has seen a rise in wildfires on both coasts this summer, causing black smoke to spread for miles and into the United States.

As of Thursday, the fires have burned through 13.9 million hectares this season, marking the worst wildfire season on record, according to the CIFFC.

ABC News’ Will Gretsky contributed to this report.

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