Prov­ince lifts state of cri­sis as fires cool

But 23 evac­u­a­tion alerts still in place

Vancouver Sun - - CITY -

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

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