After mounting calls from regional authorities and opposition leaders, the B.C. government has declared a provincial state of emergency in response to the ongoing wildfire situation.
Currently, there are 299 active wildfires in the province. Approximately 5,700 people are affected by evacuation orders and another 32,000 are under evacuation alert. As extended forecasts predict hot, dry weather and heightened wind activity, the province is bracing for the worst.
“As wildfire activity is expected to increase, this is a progressive step in our wildfire response to make sure British Columbia has access to extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act,” says Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “In a briefing last night, I received word that we’ll be facing a few days of very difficult weather in the Interior.”
We have declared a provincial state of emergency in response to the increasingly severe wildfire situation in BC. It’s all-hands-on-deck to support communities, and we’ll continue using all available resources to protect people. https://t.co/lgZ4jLJEvo #BCWildfire pic.twitter.com/yzoUXUV82a
— BC Government News (@BCGovNews) July 20, 2021
What a state of emergency means for firefighting efforts
The emergency declaration will begin on July 21, and lasts 14 days until August 3. Provincial authorities have the jurisdiction to remove or extend the declaration within this timeframe.
A provincial state of emergency ensures that federal, provincial and municipal resources can deliver a coordinated response to protect the public. This gives agencies, including Emergency Management BC, the fire commissioner, and the RCMP, the authority to take every action necessary to fight the wildfires.
Since July 5, opposition BC Liberals have called for a state of provincial emergency. On July 15, officials from the hard-hit Thompson-Nicola Regional District joined those efforts, putting pressure on Premier John Horgan to make the declaration.
In the coming days, federal personnel and resources will arrive in British Columbia to assist with firefighting efforts. For more information on evacuation alerts and orders, visit the EmergencyInfo BC website.