07/07/2017 21:24 EDT | Updated 07/07/2017 21:41 EDT

B.C. declares a province-wide state of emergency in fight against wildfires

100 MILE HOUSE, B.C. — A province-wide state of emergency has been declared in British Columbia after dozens of new wildfires broke out on Friday, destroying buildings and forcing thousands of people from their homes.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone describes the situation as urgent and says the "extraordinary step" of declaring an emergency was necessary to co-ordinate the crisis response and ensure public safety.

Stone says 56 new blazes sprang up on Friday alone, adding that wildfire activity is expected to increase with hot, dry weather predicted in the coming days, along with thunderstorms forecast for many parts of the province.

Evacuation orders have been issued for the communities Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Princeton, 105 Mile House and 108 Mile House, while other communities have been placed under evacuation alert, such as 100 Mile House and 150 Mile House.

A 15-square-kilometre wildfire raging about 200 kilometres northwest of Kamloops has forced as many as 3,600 people to evacuate.

John Ranta, head of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, says a seven-square-kilometre blaze near Ashcroft has shut down parts of the Trans-Canada Highway and has destroyed dozens of buildings, including at least five houses, 30 trailer park homes and two hangers at a regional airport.