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Canada wildfires: Thousands flee homes in Saskatchewan, British Columbia

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Beginning on June 28, 2015, a sharp trough in the jet stream sent a river of smoke streaming south into the United States. By June 29, smoke darkened the skies over much of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa.

Thousands of people in Canada have fled their homes as hundreds of wildfires burn, sending thick smoke as far south as Colorado, officials said Wednesday.

More than 13,000 have evacuated in Saskatchewan, Member of Parliament Rob Clarke told reporters. Evacuation orders affect 60 communities, the government of Saskatchewan said on its website, adding there are 113 active fires.

Canadian broadcaster CBC reported that 15 homes in Montreal Lake had been destroyed by fire. In another part of the province, one cabin owner had been watering down his home at Nemeiben Lake for two weeks and clear cutting some trees.

On Wednesday the blaze was just 330 yards (300 meters) away. Mark Paquette compared the sound of the fire to the sounds at an airport.

“You’ll hear a jet sort of sound start up in the forest, followed by a really black smoke,” he told the CBC. “Then you’ll see basically a fireball race across the trees.”

Paquette told the network he and his wife were staying at the cabin — and sometimes in their boat.

Firefighters will soon get help from the military. As many as 1,400 troops may be trained in fire fighting and sent to the hotspots. Several hundred had been deployed Wednesday, MP Randy Hoback said.

The smoke had reached about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) south — and there were smoke advisories — in cities such as Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs as of Wednesday, CNN affiliate KDVR in Denver reported. Hazy conditions persisted, but a series of storms went through the area Wednesday night.

Also winds in Canada were expected to shift to a more northerly pattern. Around La Ronge, threatened on several sides by fire, winds were gusting as high as 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph).

But forecasters at Environment Canada predicted that would change as the chance of showers increased to 60% overnight. There is the same 60% chance of rain on Thursday.

Flames are also burning in British Columbia, where one firefighter was killed this past weekend.

Kevin Skrepnek of the British Columbia Wildfire Service told CNN that almost 200 fires are active.

“That’s higher than we see for busy seasons at the end of the year,” he said. “It’s a very volatile situation.”

There were 47 new fires in just the past two days, he said.

By Steve Almasy

CNN’s Stephanie Gallman contributed to this report.

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