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British Columbia Smoke drifts into B.C. from Washington wildfire as Canadian crews offer help

Remnants of a burnt structure are pictured during the Okanogan Complex Fire near Tonasket, Washington, August 22, 2015.

JASON REDMOND/REUTERS

Smoke has drifted into southern British Columbia from raging wildfires in Washington state, as Canadian crews get ready to offer relief to exhausted U.S. firefighters.

The 168-square kilometre Stickpin fire is burning about 4.5 kilometres south of the Canada-U.S. border. It grew minimally on Friday night and most of the growth was to the east.

The B.C. Wildfire Service said the fire remains a strong concern and it will send resources including two 20-member action crews on Sunday.

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"The U.S. crews are professionals. They've been working very, very hard on this fire," said fire information officer Fanny Bernard.

"They've had good success with containment lines to the west as well as to the north. The crews that we are sending tomorrow are basically going to be taking over where U.S. crews left off."

She said the service has been working for days on an agreement allowing Canadian firefighters to take control of the northern section of the blaze.

Bernard said the fire has seen a lot of heat and dry, burning conditions. She said the wind was "thick" in Grand Forks and Christina Lake but no evacuation alerts or orders had been issued.

She said a forecasted south-westerly wind was expected to bring even more smoke into the region.

About 145 kilometres west in Oliver, the winds had already changed by Saturday evening and fire information officer Heather Rice said the community was "totally smoked in."

"I can't believe the smoke in just the last two hours," she said. "We had a gorgeous day here today, no smoke whatsoever, but the southerly winds that were forecasted have come in."

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She said the smoke forced the service to ground its air support on the 31-square kilometre Testalinden Creek blaze and an evacuation alert was expanded as a "proactive" measure.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen said the alert covers 183 homes.

"This expansion to the existing evacuation alert is due to wildfire growth in the uplands of Kobau Mountain," the district said in a news release.

Occupants must be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.

About 200 wildfires are burning across B.C. and the province has spent $224 million on firefighting efforts this year.

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