B.C.'s wildfires a 'graphic reminder' of climate change, premier says
B.C.'s already troubling wildfire season is only expected to worsen in the days ahead, the province's premier warned Wednesday, calling the current conditions a reflection of climate change.
John Horgan made the comments from outside Southeast Fire Centre offices less than 12 hours after B.C. entered a provincial state of emergency due to wildfires.
"This is a graphic reminder of how climate change is with us, not just intermittently but all the time," Horgan said.
The premier insisted last week that a state of emergency was not yet necessary, saying local governments were already managing resources well. That changed, however, with more fires sparking early this week and worsening weather in the forecast.
"Where (a state of emergency) was of most value to us … was that the weather patterns we're seeing are not going to break up," Horgan said, adding winds could cause the fires to grow.
"We can't predict them the way we could if the winds were not as aggressive and we want to be able to work before an evacuation order is issued."
The state of emergency gives the province power to assure there are enough accommodations available in community spaces if a massive evacuation order is put in place.
Horgan said anyone travelling within B.C. should check local conditions before they leave home.
"In the end people will make their choices and that's entirely up to them. There will be closures in the backcountry, there are now and there will be more coming as fires continue to ignite," he said.
"We have a bad stretch of weather ahead of us, we have winds picking up, these are all bad, bad, bad news for the fire service and for the personnel on the ground and of course it's going to have a profound impact on the economy as well."
As of Wednesday morning, 295 fires are active in the province. Of those, 39 are considered wildfires of note. Five of them are in the Southeast Fire Centre. However, no large fires are currently burning by Castlegar, where the premier was speaking from Wednesday as part of a tour through the Kootenays.
"We've got many, many weeks ahead of us," Horgan said, adding that the province would accept any help other jurisdictions can provide. More than 3,000 firefighters and support staff are battling the blazes, with some having come from Alberta, New Brunswick and Quebec.