State of emergency over B.C. wildfires extended for second time
Published Friday, August 4, 2017 11:28AM PDT
Last Updated Friday, August 4, 2017 6:35PM PDT
The B.C. government has extended a province-wide state of emergency for a second time over what officials are calling the most destructive wildfire season in 60 years.
The state of emergency was first declared in early July and will remain in effect until at least Aug. 18.
In a statement Friday, Emergency Management BC said the measure will ensure the province has enough resources to keep the public safe until the wildfire situation is fully under control.
“This ensures that federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated response to the wildfire situation and continue to ensure public safety, which remains the provincial government's top priority,” the statement read.
The province says it will also continue to provide $600 of emergency funding for each displaced family.The funding will be renewed every two weeks until evacuees return home.
The state of emergency was first declared on July 7 after more than 140 wildfires broke out in a single day across the B.C. Interior and Cariboo region. Premier John Horgan extended the state of emergency for the first time on July 19.
As of Friday morning, crews were battling 123 wildfires across the province, B.C.’s chief fire information officer told reporters Friday. Nine new fires broke out Thursday, Kevin Skrepnek said in a conference call.
According to Emergency Management BC, more than 7,000 people are still out of their homes as a result of 27 evacuation orders that are currently in effect. Nearly 25,000 other people remain on evacuation alert.
Since April 1, 872 fires have consumed 5,090 square kilometres of forest, brush and grassland.
Skrepnek said a total of 3,800 personnel are working to contain the fires, including 800 people from other provinces and 1,400 contract firefighters.
So far this year, fire suppression efforts have cost the province more than $210 million, he said.
Hot, dry weather in wildfire-affected areas is forecasted to continue into next week, prompting officials to ban all recreational off-road vehicles from Crown land in the Cariboo, Kamloops and Southeast fire centres.
“We’ve taken this step to prevent further human-caused wildfires,” Skrepnek said.
Violating the restriction could lead to a $767 fine.
Some residents are taking it upon themselves to prevent human-caused fires.
A dashcam video posted on Facebook Thursday shows a man in Surrey confronting a driver for tossing a lit cigarette out of their car window.
“If you are going to throw a lit cigarette out of your vehicle travelling down the highway, you could be charged under the Wildfire Act for recklessly disposing of a flammable substance,” RCMP Cpl. Richard De Jong told CTV News.
Under provincial law, the maximum fine for disobeying a fire ban is $1,150. Those found responsible in court for starting a wildfire could be fined up to $1 million and be sentenced to one year in jail.
In Metro Vancouver, the tinder-dry conditions have led officials to declare an “extreme” fire risk ahead of the long weekend.
"We encourage residents to head out and have a fun B.C. Day long weekend but to be mindful of the effects this heat is having on our region," Metro Vancouver Chair Greg Moore, said in a news release Friday.
Officials said in the release that regional parks are open, with the exception of Sumas Mountain Interregional Park near Abbotsford and a section of the Delta-South Surrey Regional Greenway.
Under the extreme fire danger rating, however, campfires and briquette barbecues are prohibited in all regional parks.
According to the release, officials are constantly monitoring the weather and could decide to close more parks.
On Thursday, the mayor of Delta closed five parks over wildfire concerns.
The park closures accompany an air quality advisory that has been in place since the beginning of the week as smoke from the wildfires blows into the Lower Mainland.
Emergency Management BC said those travelling during the long weekend can expect delays and road closures as a result of fire suppression efforts and evacuations.
“As we go into the long weekend and this elevated risk, we ask the public to remain vigilant with an evacuation plan and a kit,” executive director Chris Duffy said Friday, adding that it’s imperative for everyone to follow the instructions of authorities and fire crews.
With files from The Canadian Press