Ottawa sends 150 more troops to help with B.C. fires
The federal government is sending 150 additional Canadian Armed Forces members to help on the ground in British Columbia, where more than 45,000 people remain out of their homes due to fast-moving wildfires.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the unarmed military members will assist with road checks in key access points in the Interior, freeing up local police to do other duties.
“I’m pleased that (Ottawa has) acted as quickly as they have done in terms of recognizing the pressure that not only the people fighting the fires are under, but also the RCMP and policing forces,” he told reporters in Kamloops.
“There are a lot of tired people out there who need a break.”
Farnworth, who was sworn in Tuesday as part of B.C.’s new NDP government, said he, Forests Minister Doug Donaldson, and Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness Jennifer Rice, will meet with federal ministers on the weekend.
The Canadian Armed Forces has already sent a number of personnel, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to the province to help in the firefight.
On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan extended a provincewide state of emergency for another two weeks.
Evacuees are eligible for $600 from a previously announced $100million provincial fund, and Horgan said that they will be able to access an additional $600 for every two weeks they are displaced.
Former premier Christy Clark, now leader of the Opposition, established the $100-million fund nearly two weeks ago and is now calling for the NDP to double it.
Farnworth said the fund is currently sufficient, but that the government would spend whatever is necessary on the emergency.
“I hope we get a honking big rainstorm that puts everything out, but we’re just at the beginning and so we’re going to make sure that people are looked after.”
The forecast called for rain in some parts of B.C. on Thursday, but about 140 fires are still burning in the province. More than 3,500 square kilometres of land have been scorched by wildfires this year.
Donaldson was asked whether B.C. had done enough to prevent wildfires and, in particular, whether he thought recommendations in a 2003 report after the province’s last major wildfire emergency had been adequately implemented.
“Some of the recommendations were acted on. Others need further action,” he said.
“Today, I want to focus on the public safety aspects: people’s homes, people’s livestock, people’s animals, people’s lives. There’s going to be a lot of time to look at what’s been done in the past and to do things better in the future.”