B.C. requests wildfire assistance from federal government

Mike Farnworth

WITH weeks of fire season remaining, and forecasts for continued hot, dry conditions that carry the risk of further lightning strikes, the provincial government has requested assistance from the federal government for its firefighting efforts.

“This is an urgent situation, and the safety of British Columbians is our highest priority,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Due to the increase in the number of wildfires affecting communities and the extreme wildfire behaviour we are seeing, we’re asking for federal assistance for additional resources that may be needed to protect the public, property and infrastructure.”

As of the morning of Monday, August 13, there were 27 evacuation orders affecting approximately 3,100 people (1,537 properties), in addition to 43 evacuation alerts impacting approximately 17,900 people (8,909 properties).

More than 3,400 dedicated wildfire personnel are responding to some 600 wildfires currently burning in all areas of the province. This includes BC Wildfire Service crews, contractors, municipal firefighters, industry personnel and out-of-province crews from throughout Canada, as well as Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.

“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. “I thank the federal government and the Canadian Armed Forces for their assistance, and also ask British Columbians to do their part by following burning bans to prevent human-caused fires.”

British Columbia is requesting:

* Two hundred self-sufficient personnel to perform the mop-up and patrol of contained fires, under the supervision of the BC Wildfire Service. The BC Wildfire Service will provide the required personal protective equipment, firefighting equipment and incremental training as required for these tasks.

* Heavy-lift aircraft to reposition wildfire crews and equipment to new fire starts that threaten communities. These aircraft will assist with the resupply of existing operations (fire camps, air bases, etc.), which will permit BC Wildfire Service aircraft to be directed to the firefighting effort from resupply tasks.

* Aircraft for emergency transport of injured personnel and to help evacuate people in remote areas, should evacuation routes be compromised.

To report a wildfire or open burning violation, call *5555 on a cellphone, or 1 800 663-5555, toll-free.


MEANWHILE, The Liberals said that Farnworth’s move comes after a formal written request over the weekend from central northern region MLAs. On Saturday a group of MLAs wrote directly to Farnworth requesting help from the federal government asking the province to step up resources to make firefighting efforts more effective.

“Currently there are nearly 600 wildfires scattered through the province and we continue to experience extremely dry conditions. Consequently this has spread thin our firefighting personnel and equipment to many different regions,” said MLA Coralee Oakes. “We just had temporary weather relief in some parts of the Cariboo, which is the perfect time to put a fire out, but as soon as one area seems under control, existing resources are being pulled to other areas by necessity. We therefore welcome public safety minister Mike Farnworth’s decision to accede to our request for federal resources to fight wildfires more effectively.”

“We learned from the 2017 fire season that public safety must be our first priority,” said MLA Donna Barnett. “We are certainly grateful for the work currently being done by firefighters and support staff, including private contractors, but we need to act on the lessons learned from last year and move quickly before any one situation gets out of hand. Thankfully residents are watching out for each other and are better prepared than last year. With federal help, we will be in a better position to protect the safety of our constituents, dedicated firefighters and first responders.”

“The exchange of correspondence over the weekend provided the necessary basis for today’s request from the minister,” Oakes and Barnett added. “We are deeply grateful for our professional men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to fight the wildfires and to protect our homes and communities.”