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Wildfires prompt B.C. to declare state of emergency

'Public safety is always our first priority'
A fire west of Lilloeet earlier this year. (via Facebook/B.C. Wildfire Service)

The B.C. government has declared a state of emergency in response to the wildfires burning across the province.

Once issued, the state of emergency is in effect for two weeks but can be extended or rescinded as necessary. It applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated response to protect the public.

“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,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety, in a press release.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 14, there were 566 active fires, with 29 evacuation orders impacting around 3,050 people (1,521 properties), in addition to 48 evacuation alerts affecting 18,720 people (9,359 properties).

Right now, there are more than 3,372 firefighters and contractors on the frontlines. 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.

On Monday (Aug. 13), B.C. requested the help of federal government resources. Ottawa will be sending assistance in the coming days.

During the 2017 wildfire season, B.C. was in a provincial state of emergency for 10 weeks, from July 7 to Sept. 15. Prior to that, the province’s last state of emergency was in August 2003, to deal with that wildfire season.