WITH weeks of British Columbia’s fire season remaining and no relief from hot, dry conditions in sight, the Province announced on Saturday that it has asked the federal government for additional Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) support through September.
The Canadian Forces will provide:
- Up to 300 Standard BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) Tier III firefighting-trained CAF members in self-sufficient camps who will assist with the mop-up and monitoring stages of the wildfires, including air support. The BCWS will provide the supervision, training and equipment needed to keep the personnel safe.
- Temporary lodgings for firefighters transiting to and from remote locations.
None of the Province’s requests for military support have included deployments in an armed or law-enforcement capacity, or for front-line fire suppression.
In July, the Province requested and obtained CAF aid with emergency airlifts, followed by a second request for assistance in support of the RCMP efforts in the Williams Lake area. Military personnel have been in place specifically to help with ground and air evacuations, delivering essentials like food supplies by land and air, and maintaining road checkpoints throughout the areas affected by the fires.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said: “British Columbia continues to deal with one of the most-devastating wildfire seasons in its history, with more than 650,000 hectares burned to date and hot, dry conditions expected to continue throughout most of the province. We are incredibly grateful for the tireless efforts of all those engaged in the fight, and we recognize that more resources will be needed to sustain this important work through September, so we’re requesting those resources now.”
Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson said: “We appreciate the efforts of everyone who has been lending a hand this summer. Given their training and command structure, the military personnel are ideally suited to assist with mop-up, demobilization and patrol work on a number of our larger wildfires. The work to fully extinguish some of these fires is expected to take several weeks.”
Commander Joint Task Force Pacific, Rear-Admiral Art McDonald, said: “Joint Task Force Pacific is always prepared to support our federal and provincial partners in keeping Canadians safe. This new deployment of personnel in support of the British Columbia Wildfire Service is a tangible demonstration of the federal government’s dedication to preserve life and property during this state of emergency in British Columbia.”
- With this announcement, the CAF has deployed a total of 650 personnel to British Columbia in support of this year’s firefighting efforts.
- Currently, there are 3,900 personnel fighting the wildfires, including 1,606 contractors and 647 from out of province.
- In 2003, 920 military personnel supported British Columbia’s wildfire fighting efforts.