Image: Wildfires burn on Mount McLean in British Columbia
Darryl Dyck  /  AP
Helicopter pilots watch as a controlled fire burns on Mount McLean in an attempt to reduce the amount of fuel for a wildfire burning on the mountain in Lillooet, British Columbia, on Tuesday. In the town of Lillooet, 2,500 people were forced from their homes.
updated 8/5/2009 1:38:45 PM ET 2009-08-05T17:38:45

Firefighters saved a western Canada town from a raging wildfire as they continued Wednesday to battle blazes that have forced more than 5,000 people to flee their homes in the region.

Firefighters stopped a fire only a few hundred yards from Lillooet, 105 miles northeast of Vancouver, by using a controlled burn to contain the flames. About 2,300 people in Lillooet were forced to evacuate from the Mount McLean fire, which has burned 8,150 acres since July 22.

Firefighters were still working to put out some hotspots in the main fire, and two other fronts of the fire continued to burn heavily, said Gary Horley, fire information officer for the British Columbia Forest Service.

"The battle continues. This is still an uncontrolled wildfire," he said.

About 3,000 local firefighters fighting the blazes have been joined by 850 more from across Canada. A crew of 30 from Australia and New Zealand were expected to arrive Thursday.

Rain was in the forecast for the worst fire-afflicted areas Wednesday.

Lightning-sparked fires have caused the evacuation of several communities, mostly in the province's mountainous interior.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper expects the province of British Columbia to apply for national disaster relief.

Throughout the province since April 1, almost 2,300 fires have burned 195,213 acres, compared to 26,193 acres burned by 1,086 fires for the same period last year.

Three weeks ago, fires forced the evacuation of 11,000 from the town of West Kelowna. Fighting this year's fires have now cost twice the province's annual firefighting budget.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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