Provincial state of emergency declared in BC


Declarations of provincial states of emergency may be issued by the minister responsible under the Emergency Program Act. A state of emergency declaration due to wildfires was also declared in 1996.

As of Tuesday, there were 566 wildfires burning in British Columbia, and 77 evacuation orders or alerts affecting almost 22,000 people and 11,000 properties.

Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth made the announcement Wednesday morning in a statement.

The provincial wildfire service says more than 1,800 wildfires have been recorded since April 1, destroying about 3.800-square kilometres of brush.

The latest state of emergency will remain in effect for 14 days but can be extended or rescinded as necessary, Farnworth said, adding it ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated manner. Another 48 evacuation alerts means another 18,720 people should be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice if the fires spread.

The federal government has approved the deployment of almost 200 members of the Armed Forces to help. Skrepnek said a lot of them would likely be sent to the Okanagan to help with wildfire mop-up. In the coming days, federal personnel and resources will be arriving in assist with wildfire efforts. At the same time past year, the agency had spent $332 million.

Last year, BC was under a 10-week state of emergency to deal with blazes that eventually burned through 1.2m hectares of the province.

Donaldson described the situation as volatile, adding "a change in wind direction could change everything".

Fires are active throughout entire parts of the province. Those with breathing or medical issues, the elderly, infants and those with heart or lung disease should take care to spend time inside with air conditioning.

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

"Rain is going to be absolutely critical".