State of emer­gency

Clark an­nounces $100M to help com­mu­ni­ties re­build as wild­fires burn across B.C.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Bri­tish Columbia is mak­ing $100 mil­lion avail­able to com­mu­ni­ties and res­i­dents af­fected by wild­fires to help them re­build.

Out­go­ing Pre­mier Christy Clark an­nounced the fund to­day dur­ing a visit to Kam­loops, where she met with emer­gency of­fi­cials and fam­i­lies im­pacted by scores of out-of-con­trol fires.

Clark says $600 will be made im­me­di­ately avail­able by elec­tronic trans­fer through the Red Cross to peo­ple who have reg­is­tered af­ter be­ing forced from their homes.

She says the tran­si­tion team for pre­mier-des­ig­nate John Hor­gan’s in­com­ing gov­ern­ment has been briefed on the estab­lish­ment of the fund.

Hor­gan was to meet with evac­uees in Kam­loops and visit emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­tres that are deal­ing with what his team called the “wors­en­ing wild­fire cri­sis.’’

Ground and air crews were bat­tling 230 wild­fires across B.C. amid con­tin­u­ing hot, dry and of­ten windy con­di­tions that made it a dif­fi­cult strug­gle.

The hard­est-hit re­gions are the cen­tral and south­ern In­te­rior.

There are also a num­ber of ma­jor blazes burn­ing in north­ern B.C. but they weren’t pos­ing as im­me­di­ate a threat as the fires fur­ther south, said Kevin Skrep­nek, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the BC Wild­fire Ser­vice.

A provincewide state of emer­gency was de­clared Fri­day af­ter about 140 new fires ig­nited and crews grap­pled with in­tense winds. The gov­ern­ment said it would al­low it to more eas­ily co-or­di­nate a re­sponse to the cri­sis.

Clark said peo­ple are wor­ried about their homes, pets and life­long pos­ses­sions.

“We are just, in many ways, at the be­gin­ning of the worst part of the fire sea­son and we watch the weather, we watch the wind, and we pray for rain,’’ she told re­porters in Kam­loops.

“But our prayers aren’t al­ways an­swered in these things and so we need to be there to sup­port peo­ple in the mean­time be­cause there are hun­dreds and hun­dreds of peo­ple who are scared to death right now.’’

On Satur­day, the winds eased slightly, but 98 new fires sprang up and ex­ist­ing fires grew in size, Skrep­nek said.

The three big­gest fires ranged in size from about 14 to 20 square kilo­me­tres and drove thou­sands of peo­ple from their homes in the com­mu­ni­ties of Ashcroft, Cache Creek, 100 Mile House, 105 Mile House, 108 Mile House, 150 Mile House and the Alexis Creek area.

Pre­cise evac­uee num­bers for the en­tire prov­ince were not im­me­di­ately avail­able Sun­day, but the Cari­boo Re­gional Dis­trict es­ti­mated that as many as 6,000 peo­ple were forced from their res­i­dences. New evac­u­a­tion or­ders af­fect­ing dozens of homes were is­sued on Sun­day.

The prov­ince has been mar­shalling all the per­son­nel it can to bat­tle the flames, pro­tect prop­erty and try to keep peo­ple safe.

More than 1,000 fire­fight­ers are on scene, sup­ported by heavy equip­ment and he­li­copters. An­other 600 per­son­nel are back­ing them up, plus some 200 con­trac­tors. An ad­di­tional 300 fire­fight­ers are be­ing re­cruited from other parts of Canada and are ex­pected to ar­rive in B.C. to­day and Tues­day, Skrep­nek said.

CP PHOTO

A he­li­copter car­ry­ing a bucket bat­tles the Gustafsen wild­fire near 100 Mile House, B.C. More than 180 fires were burn­ing, many con­sid­ered out of con­trol, as the B.C. gov­ern­ment de­clared a provincewide state of emer­gency to co-or­di­nate the cri­sis re­sponse. Of­fi­cials said build­ings have been de­stroyed, but they did not re­lease num­bers. The BC Wild­fire Ser­vice says over 173 fires were re­ported on Fri­day alone as light­ning storms rolled over sev­eral parts of B.C.

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