Province lifts state of crisis as fires cool
But 23 evacuation alerts still in place
The British Columbia government is lifting a provincial state of emergency declared more than two months ago before what would become the province’s worst fire season on record.
The declaration that expires at midnight Friday was made July 7 after dozens of out-of-control wildfires broke out in B.C.’s Interior, forcing thousands of people from their homes.
The state of emergency allowed for better co-ordination between agencies responding to the fires and to public safety needs, and a $100-million fund was made available to support thousands of evacuees.
More than 11,700 square kilometres of land has been charred since April 1, which the B.C. Wildfire Service said is the largest area burned in the province’s recorded history.
“While the extraordinary powers of the provincial state of emergency are no longer required, the wildfire season is not over,” the government said in a news release Friday.
“It is vital that the public remain prepared and follow the continued direction of local authorities”
There are still 153 fires burning in B.C., and 11 evacuation orders are in place affecting more than 3,000 people.
There are another 23 evacuation alerts for communities in the province, meaning that more than 5,700 people have been told to prepare to leave at a moment’s notice.
At the peak of the crisis, Canadian Armed Forces members and equipment were deployed to support evacuation efforts and relieve the RCMP, which also increased its staffing in affected areas.
The wildfire service said it has spent more than $510 million on fighting the flames so far this year as fires continue to burn out of control in southeastern B.C.
The last time the province called a state of emergency was in August 2003, also in response to wildfires, but that period only lasted six weeks.
The Canadian Press