The BC government has declared a provincial state of emergency in response to the ongoing wildfires.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, made the declaration on Tuesday, July 20th to be effective on July 21st.
The state of emergency will go into effect for 14 days, but may be extended as necessary.
As of July 20th, 299 wildfires are burning in BC, with 40 evacuation orders affecting approximately 5,724 people and 2,862 properties.
There have been 69 evacuation alerts impacting approximately 32,076 people so far this year.
There are over 3,180 firefighters and resource staff currently actively engaged in fighting fires in all fire regions in the province. This includes 1,080 contractors and 135 out-of-province resources.
Minister Farnworth said that the Interior health region of BC should anticipate difficult days ahead of them, which could include mass evacuations.
“In a briefing last night, I received word that we’ll be facing a few days of very difficult weather in the Interior. This declaration will address the potential of a mass evacuation scenario and provide our government with the means to secure the accommodation spaces necessary to house our citizens, if necessary,” said Farnworth.
The province said that in the coming days, in response to their request, federal personnel and resources will be arriving in BC to assist with wildfire efforts.
The state of emergency is intended to allow for better coordination of federal, provincial and local resources to protect the public; this declaration gives authority to the government to take every action necessary to fight the wildfires.
Based on the advice of emergency management experts and worsening weather reports, we are declaring a provincial state of emergency. These additional powers will be used if necessary to support mass evacuation scenarios due to wildfires. More info: https://t.co/zPIojrDu73 https://t.co/PZXVkM0OdH
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) July 20, 2021
Minister Farnworth and Premier Horgan both stressed public safety as their goal; meanwhile, many critics are saying that the declaration came too late.
“It is difficult to understand why the BC NDP is only acting now, when local representatives and experts have been calling for a state of emergency for weeks, and some taking matters into their own hands within their jurisdiction,” said Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the BC Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley.
“We have gone from one state of emergency into another, on the heels of a record-shattering heat wave that killed hundreds of British Columbians in just a few days. B.C. is now facing a reality of extreme weather events like forest fires every single summer. This pattern is going to get worse if we fail to turn the tide on the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.”
Keep up to date on the provincial wildfire situation at BC Wildfire.