Over 30,000 Flee Wildfires in Western Canada

Towering flames shooting up 400 feet forced more than 20,000 residents from their homes as forest fires rampaged past orchards and vineyards and licked at the outskirts of this western Canadian city.

The new evacuees on Friday night joined almost 10,000 others who were forced from their homes in the outer suburbs of Kelowna (search), 170 miles east of Vancouver (search), on Thursday night. Another 11,000 in this city of 100,000 remained on evacuation alert.

Police with bullhorns moved through neighborhoods urging people to leave as the 42,000-acre fire gained ground.

Officials could not say late Friday night how many more buildings had been lost on top of the 15 consumed by advancing flames which jumped a fireguard overnight Thursday.

"We're not out of the woods yet," said Kelowna Fire Department Lt. Peter Cole. "The dragon's just woke up. We're pretty apprehensive right now because it's starting to get closer to higher density buildings."

Karen Cairns, information officer for the Regional District of Central Okanagan (search), said flames were being fanned by 45 mph winds.

The flames have been fueled by tinder dry conditions due to below average rainfall this year. High winds coupled with lightning storms have worsened the situation.

Rain is forecast for Sunday.

The cost of fighting the almost 900 fires that have plagued British Columbia this year now tops $106 million. More than 5,000 firefighters, including 1,740 soldiers, are battling the blazes. Four hundred more are expected to join the fight soon.