“Challenging days ahead” in BC’s wildfire response with little relief predicted for Interior
Burnaby firefighters have been deployed to assist in the fires.
Public safety minister Mike Farnworth told British Columbians in no uncertain terms yesterday not to travel to the Interior for any non-essential reason, as the region deals with more than a hundred wildfires.
“I want to be clear. Do not travel to fire affected areas for non essential reasons,” he said.
“And always check DriveBC to see any impacts to routes or highways. We want to ensure that people in fire affected communities will be able to evacuate if necessary, and access the support that they need. If you’re planning to travel to those areas, it’s time to change your plans.”
It comes after the Coquihalla Highway was closed for more than a day between Hope and Merritt, because of fires blazing close to the side of the road on both sides of the highway and prompting “apocalyptic” scenes for drivers travelling through heavy smoke.
Farnworth told reporters that over the 24 hours preceding a Monday afternoon press conference, there had been “significant developments” at a number of the most dangerous fires raging through the province right now—including the White Rock Lake Fire, the Lytton fire complex, the Fremont fire, the Mount Law fire in West Kelowna that’s being investigated as human-caused, and a “violent incident” south of Merritt that he said was possibly connected to an incident of domestic abuse.
“Sadly, I’ve received reports that the Okanagan Indian Band and some surrounding areas have experienced significant structure loss. It’s too early at this time to provide the exact number of homes and other structures impacted,” Farnworth said.
“But our thoughts are with the community and the people facing wildfires, and I want to assure you that the province will continue to be here to support those in need.”
Meanwhile, forests minister Katrine Conroy passed on thanks to the firefighters battling the many blazes on behalf of Premier John Horgan—who, the province revealed yesterday, is currently on vacation and will be returning to the office Thursday. While his office didn’t confirm where Horgan is, News1130 reported that he is in Atlantic Canada.
Asked what kind of message the premier’s absence sends to those who have lost or had to abandon their homes, Farnworth said Horgan is “doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing”.
“Our premier has been in complete solidarity with all the people of British Columbia, whether they have been affected by wildfires or whether they are fighting the wildfires on the ground every single day. He is briefed every day,” he said.
“I speak to him on a regular basis. The ministers who have the responsibility—which are myself, in terms of Emergency Management BC, and the ministry of forests, in terms of responsibility for the wildfire service are here.”
Data from the BC Wildfire Service shows 83 of BC’s 265 active wildfires (as of last night) were concentrated in the Kamloops fire centre, which includes Kamloops, Kelowna, Merritt, and Ashcroft among other municipalities. Another 60 were burning in nearby areas of the Prince George fire centre, while 64 were located in the Southeast centre and 33 were in Cariboo.
Residents of thousands of properties have been evacuated and thousands more have been told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice—including the entire town of Merritt, with a population of about 7,000.
Meanwhile, Burnaby firefighters have been deployed to assist in the fires. A crew that was fighting the Logan Lake fire has come home to be replaced by another crew, and Burnaby responders were also involved in fighting the Lytton Creek fire earlier this summer.
The city said in July that it has ensured that Burnaby still has full coverage to protect the city if needed.
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