Ot­tawa sends 150 more troops to help with B.C. fires

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - THE CANADIAN PRESS

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.”

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