‘Thank you for giv­ing back’

Help pours in for wild­fire evac­uees, fire­fight­ers in B.C.

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - NATIONAL NEWS - The Cana­dian Press

KAM­LOOPS, B.C. — Help from other prov­inces and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has be­gun to pour in for fire­fight­ers and thou­sands of evac­uees grap­pling with more than 230 in­tense wildfires rag­ing across Bri­tish Columbia.

About 300 fire­fight­ers and sup­port staff from Al­berta, Saskatchewan, On­tario and New Brunswick were ex­pected to start ar­riv­ing Mon­day to help re­lieve the pres­sure on roughly 1,000 B.C. fire­fight­ers bat­tling the blazes.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said he spoke with Premier Christy Clark as well as premier-des­ig­nate John Hor­gan on Sun­day night and the Cana­dian Armed Forces have sent air­craft and per­son­nel to sup­port the emer­gency re­sponse to the fires.

Res­i­dents of Fort McMurray, Alta., who had to flee a mas­sive wild­fire last year, have also sprung into ac­tion by col­lect­ing do­na­tions of sup­plies, driv­ing them to B.C. and of­fer­ing sup­port and ad­vice on so­cial me­dia.

Christo­pher Seguin, vi­cepres­i­dent of ad­vance­ment at Thomp­son Rivers Univer­sity, said ter­ri­fied evac­uees ar­rived at a Kam­loops re­cep­tion cen­tre with noth­ing, hav­ing “lost ev­ery­thing and hav­ing lost it quickly.”

He said four tonnes of sup­plies ar­rived from Fort McMurray in­clud­ing wrapped and sealed water, Ga­torade and baby sup­plies, and vol­un­teers were mak­ing sure the Kam­loops food bank re­ceives and dis­trib­utes them.

Seguin ex­pressed his grat­i­tude to the res­i­dents of Fort McMurray.

“Thank you. Thank you for giv­ing back and thank you for go­ing to an ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­fort to mak­ing sure we get ex­actly what we need at ex­actly the right time,” he said.

Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale said Mon­day more than 230 fires were burn­ing, with 98 con­sid­ered new within the “last day or so.” At least 10 were in “close prox­im­ity” to com­mu­ni­ties and more than 10,000 peo­ple have been af­fected by evac­u­a­tion or­ders.

The en­tire District of 100 Mile House, a com­mu­nity of roughly 1,800 peo­ple, was or­dered evac­u­ated Sun­day night.

Al Rich­mond, chair­man of the Cari­boo Re­gional District, said the last evac­uees from 100 Mile House left around 2 a.m. Mon­day on a bus to Prince Ge­orge to re­ceive emer­gency as­sis­tance. Oth­ers headed to the Lower Main­land, he said.

Some nearby com­mu­ni­ties were un­der evac­u­a­tion alert and res­i­dents were told to pre­pare to leave at a mo­ment’s no­tice.

Speak­ing from 100 Mile House, Rich­mond said the com­mu­nity was “smoky.”

“The power’s on, but the fire’s not in the town,” he said.

BC Hy­dro said the blazes in the cen­tral and south­ern In­te­rior have caused sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to elec­tri­cal in­fra­struc­ture and have left thou­sands with­out power. The util­ity was ac­tively work­ing with Emer­gency Man­age­ment BC and fire of­fi­cials to re­store elec­tric­ity.

The fires have burned through more than 320 square kilo­me­tres of tim­ber, bush and grass­land. The largest blaze, cov­er­ing more than 60 sq. km, is burn­ing near Ashcroft, an In­te­rior com­mu­nity about 90 km from Kam­loops.

Goodale said B.C. has re­quested 3,000 cots and 3,000 blan­kets from fed­eral stock­piles and they have been de­liv­ered to Prince Ge­orge.

The prov­ince also asked for air sup­port from the Cana­dian Armed Forces, which will be used for emer­gency evac­u­a­tions and to move fire­fight­ers, emer­gency of­fi­cials and equip­ment around the fire zone.

“The re­quest from Bri­tish Columbia was not for Cana­dian Forces per­son­nel on the ground to fight fires,” Goodale said at a news con­fer­ence in Regina. “The Cana­dian Forces per­son­nel have been asked to ac­tu­ally deal with the move­ments of those air as­sets.”

He added: “It’s a rel­a­tively small num­ber at this mo­ment but we are in very early days here.”

Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta has said the fire be­tween Ashcroft and Cache Creek has de­stroyed dozens of build­ings, in­clud­ing at least five houses, 30 trailer park homes and two hangars at a re­gional air­port.

Kevin Skrep­nek, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the B.C. Wild­fire Ser­vice, said struc- tures had def­i­nitely been lost in mul­ti­ple fires across the prov­ince, but the as­sess­ment of how many was still un­der­way.

A provincewide state of emer­gency was de­clared on Fri­day af­ter 140 new fires broke out, in part due to a sig­nif­i­cant light­ning sys­tem that hit cen­tral B.C. About 100 new fires broke out on Satur­day.

Skrep­nek said gusty winds and hot, dry con­di­tions are ex­pected to con­tinue for days.

“Un­for­tu­nately, in terms of the weather forecast, we’re not re­ally see­ing any re­prieve in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture,” he said.

DARRYL DYCK/ THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Ne­vaeh Porter, 8, is com­forted by her grand­mother Angie Thorne as they view the re­mains of their home that was de­stroyed by wild­fire on the Ashcroft First Na­tion, near Ashcroft, B.C., late Sun­day.

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