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Ottawa sending military aircraft to help battle B.C. wildfires

Smoke and fire retardant is seen along a neighbourhood in Lake Country, B.C., Sunday, July 16, 2017.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

As thousands of British Columbians are forced from their homes by wildfires, hundreds of people are stepping up to offer whatever support they can.

Kristi McLean posted to a Facebook evacuee support group saying she has a tent trailer at her home near Kamloops, B.C., that would be perfect for a family.

McLean, who has an autistic son, said it would be a good environment for a family with an autistic child.

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"Being in an evacuation centre, I know it wouldn't be good for us, for sure," she said in an interview. "Any family with special needs that need a place ... we're cool with it."

As B.C. residents step up to help those affected, Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced Monday Ottawa was deploying military aircraft and Australia was sending 50 firefighters to battle the wildfires. Goodale said the fires were expected to worsen.

The military has sent two planes and five helicopters to help with evacuations and transportation for first responders, according to the Department of National Defence.

Goodale's spokesman Scott Bardsley said the Australians were due to arrive on July 19.

Officials in British Columbia have managed to tally some of the heartbreaking losses from the out-of-control wildfires. Cariboo Regional District chairman Al Richmond says their teams have gained access to areas where houses and other buildings have been destroyed northwest of 100 Mile House.

He says they'll be contacting each resident today with the news.

B.C. residents have made numerous offers of accommodation for people forced to flee the fires, ranging from a room to full homes.

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"Chilliwack accommodation for evacuees: three-bedroom house with full basement," one posting said.are offering space for evacuees to park their trailers.

Many people have said they can provide shelter for pets.

"We have space available for evacuee horses, sheep, goats, chickens and a few dogs and/or cats," one person said.

Supplies for the evacuees are also being offered.

"I have a 20-foot container almost full of non perishable food, Gatorade, baby supplies, toiletries, blankets and pillows," a Chilliwack, B.C., resident said.

There was even thought of evacuees who would be missing Sunday night's premiere of the seventh season of "Game of Thrones."

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Kayla Charest posted on Facebook that she'd be willing to host seven or eight fans of the series who've been evacuated to Prince George.

"There's not much I can do to help with accommodations but I can definitely house some people for a couple of hours for some entertainment — take their minds off things," she said in an interview.

With files from Reuters.

Video: Surveying wildfire damage in a B.C. community (The Canadian Press)
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