The B.C. government has now declared a provincial state of emergency due to the wildfires burning around the province.
This state of emergency will be in place for 14 days but may be extended or rescinded as necessary.
It applies to the whole province and ensures provincial, federal and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated response to protect the residents of British Columbia.
The state of emergency was declared by Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, based on the recommendation from B.C.’s wildfire and emergency management officials.
“Public safety is always our first priority, and as wildfire activity is expected to increase, this is a progressive step in our wildfire response to make sure British Columbia has access to any and all resources necessary,” said Farnworth in a release. “Taking this step will further ensure we can protect the public, property and infrastructure, and assist with firefighting efforts.”
As of Aug. 14, there were 566 wildfires burning in B.C., with 29 evacuation orders affecting approximately 3,050 people (1,521 properties), in addition to 48 evacuation alerts impacting approximately 18,720 people (9,359 properties).
Currently, the province says more than 3,372 firefighters and contractors are actively engaged in fighting fires in all fire regions of the province. This includes 1,427 B.C. contract personnel, as well as 436 out-of-province personnel from Alberta, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Parks Canada, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand.
The federal government is also sending personnel and resources, which will be arriving in B.C. in the next few days.
“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,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We’re asking British Columbians to do their part and follow burning bans and restrictions to prevent human-caused fires.”
The state of emergency gives agencies, such as the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Emergency Management BC, the fire commissioner and the RCMP, the authority to take every action necessary to fight the wildfires and protect people and communities.
Last year, the province was in a provincial state of emergency for 10 weeks, from July 7 to Sept. 15.
The last provincial declaration of a state of emergency due to the wildfires before the 2017 wildfire season was issued in August 2003.