Weather to bring more wild­fires, evac­u­a­tions in Bri­tish Columbia

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - GEORDON OMAND

There is no end in sight to the wild­fires in Bri­tish Columbia that have forced thou­sands of peo­ple from their homes and rav­aged hun­dreds of square kilo­me­tres of land.

Provin­cial of­fi­cials say that more gusty winds and hot, dry con­di­tions are in the weather fore­cast, mean­ing the num­ber of peo­ple told to leave is likely to rise from the lat­est es­ti­mate of 7,000.

“The sit­u­a­tion around evac­u­a­tion alerts and or­ders could be quite fluid,” said Kevin Skrep­nek, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the BC Wild­fire Ser­vice, on Sun­day.

“I would an­tic­i­pate there would be ex­pan­sions over the next few days.”

Hun­dreds of fires cov­er­ing an area of more than 236 square kilo­me­tres has de­stroyed homes. B.C. an­nounced a $100-mil­lion fund to help com­mu­ni­ties and res­i­dents re­build, while the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is send­ing air­craft.

Christy Clark, the out­go­ing pre­mier, an­nounced the fund Sun­day in Kam­loops. She said $600 will be made im­me­di­ately avail­able by elec­tronic trans­fer through the Red Cross to peo­ple who have reg­is­tered af­ter be­ing forced from their homes.

“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 said.

“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.”

Public Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale said he and De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan ac­cepted a re­quest from B.C. for fed­eral as­sis­tance.

“I am heart­ened by the re­silience, co-op­er­a­tion and courage demon­strated by the com­mu­ni­ties and emer­gency per­son­nel fac­ing this quickly evolv­ing sit­u­a­tion,” he said in a state­ment.

Three Cana­dian Armed Forces Grif­fon he­li­copters were ex­pected to ar­rive in Kelowna on Sun­day and some larger fixed-wing air­craft are to ar­rive over the next few days, said Chris Duffy, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Emer­gency Man­age­ment BC.

Duffy said the air­craft would be on standby and ready to help wher­ever they were needed, but that they would not be as­sist­ing with fire sup­pres­sion at this time.

Ground and air­crews bat­tled 220 wild­fires across B.C. on Sun­day.

The hard­est-hit re­gions were the cen­tral and south­ern In­te­rior. There were also ma­jor blazes burn­ing in north­ern B.C., but they weren’t pos­ing as im­me­di­ate a threat, said Skrep­nek.

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

On Satur­day, 98 new fires sprang up and ex­ist­ing fires grew in size, Skrep­nek said.

B.C. has seen 552 fires to date in 2017, about half of which broke out over the past few days. Skrep­nek said the prov­ince had spent $46 mil­lion fight­ing wild­fires this year as of end-of-day Fri­day.

DAR­RYL DYCK, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Remmi Billy, of Hat Creek, rests on her dad Kris Billy’s shoul­der as they wait to reg­is­ter at an evac­u­a­tion cen­tre in Kam­loops, B.C., on Sun­day.

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