B.C. premier fears rag­ing wild­fires are new norm

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Re­lent­less for­est fires burn­ing across Bri­tish Columbia may be the new nor­mal, Premier Christy Clark warned as she stood not far from a rag­ing fire that threat­ened homes in her own rid­ing.

Clark spoke near the West­side Road fire out­side West Kelowna on Wed­nes­day, where flames have forced emer­gency of­fi­cials to is­sue evac­u­a­tion or­ders to the res­i­dents of 70 homes.

It’s one of 10 evac­u­a­tion alerts or or­ders across the province, where more than 250 blazes are burn­ing, 43 of which broke out on Tues­day fol­low­ing a se­ries of light­ning storms.

The premier said she is con­cerned that cli­mate change has al­tered the ter­rain, dry­ing out the land and mak­ing it more vul­ner­a­ble to fire, and as a re­sult what B.C. is see­ing isn’t un­usual and will hap­pen more of­ten.

As of Wed­nes­day, the province has spent more than $140 mil­lion bat­tling the 1,300 wild­fires that have bro­ken out this sea­son, and Clark said the province could spend another $300 to $400 mil­lion this year if the pace con­tin­ues.

“I am mostly con­cerned ... that the for­est fire sea­son won’t give us a break and that we're go­ing to see more homes threat­ened, more peo­ple’s liveli­hood threat­ened, more for­est re­sources lost.'”

Clark said B.C. must con­tinue to fight cli­mate change, be bet­ter pre­pared for wild­fires and have the nec­es­sary re­sources to fight them. The fire in Clark’s rid­ing is par­tic­u­larly un­set­tling be­cause hun­dreds of homes were lost in 2003 when a wild­fire swept through Kelowna — just across Okana­gan Lake from the cur­rent blaze.

“In Kelowna, we are be­com­ing more and more fa­mil­iar with this, and so it’s kind of like ev­ery sum­mer they kind of get the band back to­gether,” said Clark. “Ev­ery­body comes to the co-or­di­na­tion cen­tre,” she said.

“They all know how they in­ter­re­late be­cause sadly we are do­ing this ev­ery year now, but boy we do it bet­ter than any­body else in the world.”

Glen Burgess, the in­com­ing in­ci­dent com­man­der for the West­side Road fire, said they’ve been un­able to con­tain any area of the blaze, but the num­ber of per­son­nel has in­creased three-fold since Mon­day.

Clark

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