Provincial state of emergency declared over B.C. wildfires
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2018 8:43AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 15, 2018 7:38PM PDT
The B.C. government has declared a state of emergency as the province's wildfire situation continues to worsen.
There are currently 566 wildfires burning across B.C., prompting 29 evacuation orders that have forced about 3,050 people to flee from their homes.
Around 18,700 others are under evacuation alert, and officials expect the situation will get worse before it gets better.
But the province-wide state of emergency will help ensure "any and all resources necessary" are delivered to the areas that need them most, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said.
"It will give substantial powers to the province to be able to ensure that everything that needs to be done is in fact being done," he told reporters Wednesday.
Farnworth said the declaration will make it easier to co-ordinate the various firefighting resources coming from the local, provincial and federal levels, and to move RCMP officers out of their home detachments to wherever their help is required.
The state of emergency was declared on the urging of wildfire experts, he added.
"This decision has been made on the basis of advice that we have received in terms of the number of fires, the nature of the fires, as well as the long-term outlook over the next 10 days in terms of the weather, and the fact that there doesn't appear to be any relief in sight," Farnworth said.
The Canadian government recently accepted B.C.'s request for help in the fight, and federal personnel and resources are expected to arrive in the coming days.
There are already more than 3,370 firefighters and contractors battling wildfires across every region of the province, including 436 people who flew in from other parts of the country and even overseas. Some of the personnel came from as far as Mexico, New Zealand and Australia.
Ottawa has also approved the deployment of nearly 200 members of the Armed Forces to help in the effort.
"Given the unpredictable behaviour of wildfires and the number of significant wildfires in all areas of the province, we're bringing in the additional resources we need to keep people and communities as safe as possible," Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said in a statement. "We're asking British Columbians to do their part and follow burning bans and restrictions to prevent human-caused fires."
The B.C. government said the state of emergency has been set to last 14 days, but can be expanded or cancelled at any time. During last year's destructive wildfire season, the state of emergency lasted for 10 weeks.
Officials said the 2018 fire season is different than the previous year's because of how spread out the fires are.
"This year what we're dealing with is fires all over the province of British Columbia, whereas last year they were tended to be concentrated in a number of areas – the Cariboo, for example," Farnworth said.
More fires have also broken out so far this wildfire season, though they are generally smaller. About 1,800 wildfires have been sparked across B.C. since April 1, compared to the roughly 1,000 that burned over the same period in 2017.
But last year's fires had already scorched 906,000 hectares, or 9,060 square kilometres of land, while this year's have burned about 381,000 hectares.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Breanna Karstens-Smith