Hundreds of Wildfires Affect Thousands of Residents

Source: Emergency Management BC

August 15, 2018 – The British Columbia government has declared a provincial state of emergency to support the province-wide response to the ongoing wildfire situation.

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, made the declaration based on the recommendation from BC’s wildfire and emergency management officials.

The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days, once issued, and may be extended or rescinded as necessary. The state of emergency applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated response to protect the public, which remains the provincial government’s top priority.

“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,” Farnworth said. “Taking this step will further ensure we can protect the public, property and infrastructure, and assist with firefighting efforts.”

As of August 14, there were 566 wildfires burning in BC, 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). The extended weather forecast calls for continued hot and dry conditions, with risk of thunderstorms in some parts of the province.

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The evacuated horses in stalls at the Barriere Fairgrounds in July 2017. By mid-July the fairgrounds was home to 378 animals, and 80 percent were horses. Photo: Jill Hayward

Currently, more than 3,372 firefighters and contractors are actively engaged in fighting fires in all fire regions of the province. This includes 1,427 BC 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 has responded to and accepted British Columbia’s request for assistance. In the coming days, federal personnel and resources will be arriving in BC to assist with wildfire efforts.

“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.

During the 2017 wildfire season, the Province was in a provincial state of emergency for 10 weeks, from July 7 to Sept. 15.

The last provincial declaration of state of emergency before the 2017 wildfire season was issued in August 2003, to deal with wildfires.

HCBC Animal Disaster Relief Fund

As the wildfire situation continues to escalate, Horse Council BC has announced that evacuation centres are being set up across the province and have started accepting displaced horses, livestock and pets. The HCBC Animal Disaster Relief Fund is open and accepting donations. Funds collected will be used to provide resources including hay, supplies, and gas to groups and emergency evacuation centres assisting with the wildfire relief effort. For more information, please visit HCBC Animal Disaster Relief Fund.

For information on evacuation orders and alerts, visit Emergency Info BC

To keep up-to-date on the provincial wildfire situation visit the BC Wildfire Service website.

For comprehensive emergency preparedness information, read Wildfire! Flood! Earthquake! Are You Prepared? 

Photo: The Ashcroft Reserve wildfire as seen across Loon Lake, BC on July 16, 2017. Photo: Wikimedia/Shawn Cahill

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