B.C. government declares provincial state of emergency in response to wildfires

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      The province has given itself more tools to respond to more than 500 wildfires across B.C.

      They include the power to prohibit travel to certain areas of B.C. and the authority to make use of any land or personal property.

      This comes as a result of today's decision by the B.C. government to declare a provincial state of emergency. It will last for 14 days, at which point it could be renewed.

      "Public safety is always our first priority and, as wildfire activity is expected to increase, this is a progressive step in our wildfire response to make sure British Columbia has access to any and all resources necessary," Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said in a news release. "Taking this step will further ensure we can protect the public, property and infrastructure, and assist with firefighting efforts."

      Under the Emergency Management Act, Farnworth has authority to "acquire or use any land or personal property considered necessary to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of an emergency or disaster".

      Farnworth also has the power to "require any person to render assistance of a type that the person is qualified to provide".

      In addition, the provincial state of emergency grants the minister authority to "control or prohibit travel to or from any area of British Columbia".

      He can even "procure, fix prices for or ration food, clothing, fuel, equipment, medical supplies or other essential supplies" for the duration of the emergency.

      As of August 14, the province had issued 29 evacuation orders for 1,521 properties. This resulted in the removal of more than 3,000 people.

      There were also 48 evacuation alerts in place affecting nearly 19,000 other people.

      More than 3,300 firefighters are battling the blazes, including more than 400 from Alberta, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Parks Canada, Australia, Mexico, and New Zealand.

      During the record B.C. forest-fire season of 2017, there was a provincial state of emergency for 10 weeks.

      The declaration of a provincial state of emergency comes as the B.C. government is trying to encourage more liquefied natural gas plants—a point not lost on former B.C. Green party leader Stuart Parker.

      On his Facebook page, the Proudly Surrey council candidate pointed out that these wildfires are being driven by climate change.

      "If the government really thought this was an emergency, immediately-announced measures would include a fracking ban, an end to fossil fuel subsidies and cancellation of the LNG terminals," Parker wrote. "If this really is a damned emergency, let's act like it."