BC declares state of emergency as wildfires spread

Sergio Conner
August 18, 2018

British Columbia declared a province-wide state of emergency Wednesday as Canada's military joined firefighters in trying to douse 556 wildfires burning across the craggy region.

There were more than 560 wildfires burning in the province as of Tuesday and almost 80 evacuation orders and alerts in place affecting more than 21,000 people.

Farnworth, who is also the province's solicitor general, said the emergency was declared based on recommendations from the BC Wildfire Service and emergency management officials.

"Taking this step will further ensure we can protect the public, property and infrastructure, and assist with firefighting efforts". An evacuation alert means that residents could be ordered to evacuate at a moment's notice.

The provincial government requested federal government assistance to deal with wildfires on Monday, and personnel and resources are now on their way.

So far this year, more than 380,000 hectares have been burned by wildfires, making it the fourth-worst season on record.

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This marks the second time in as many years that B.C. has declared a state of emergency due to wildfires.

The dense smoke also made it more hard to find fires that were sparked by lightning last weekend, said Skrepnek.

British Columbia's public safety minister says he hopes the province's wildfire situation is not the new normal but the issue of climate change and its impact on forests must be taken into account. Previous declarations were in 1996, 2003 and 2017, which lasted 10 weeks. That number is likely to increase as the extended weather forecast calls for continued hot and dry conditions, with the risk of thunderstorms in some parts of the province.

Over 3,000 people are under evacuation orders and another 18,700 are under evacuation alerts.

More than two-thirds of them were caused by lightning. That includes 1,427 B.C. contract personnel and 436 out-of-province personnel, from places like Alberta, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Parks Canada, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand.

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