B.C. declares state of emergency as 566 wildfires burn across province

B.C. wildfires

The state of emergency will initially be in effect for two weeks, and may be extended or rescinded as necessary.

"It allows the province to implement emergency measures and allows us to access any assets that might be necessary", explained Ryan Turcot, a Fire Information Officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service.

There are 566 wildfires burning in the province, with almost 29 evacuation orders forcing 3,050 people from their homes. "Taking this step will further ensure we can protect the public, property and infrastructure, and assist with firefighting efforts".

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth made the call to declare the state of emergency, following a recommendation from the B.C. Wildfire Service. The state of emergency applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated response to protect the public, which remains the provincial government's top priority.

It is only the second time in more than a decade that it has been used, after a record fire season a year ago that blackened vast tracts of forest and prompted record numbers of residents to evacuate.

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At least 35 new wildfires were triggered by lightning on northern Vancouver Island over the weekend.

Almost 3,400 firefighters, including from Australia, Mexico and New Zealand, are battling the flames.

Hot and dry conditions, with a risk of thunderstorms in some parts of BC, are expected to continue over the coming days. Some 436 are from other provinces and parts of the world, including Alberta, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Parks Canada, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand.

"Certainly what I can say there is the provincial state of emergency represents the fact that we're actively exploring every option that we can to resource the current fire situation as best as possible", said Turcot. Prior to last year's declaration, the most recent state of emergency was in August 2003.

Federal resources are also expected to arrive shortly to help B.C.in battling the wildfires.

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