Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Williams Lake on tour of B.C. areas hit by wildfires
The prime minister was in B.C. today (July 31) visiting areas affected by a terrible season of wildfires.
In Williams Lake, which over the weekend was almost surrounded by forest fires, Justin Trudeau thanked emergency responders and took reporters’ questions.
"I've seen people at the edge of exhaustion keep on pushing through, motivated by the tremendous support they're getting from communities,” he said.
“I just really want to, on behalf of all Canadians, say thank you for the strength and the leadership you’ve shown over the past weeks and will continue to show, I know, for as long as necessary.”
Approximately 12,000 people were ordered to evacuate Williams Lake earlier this month, on July 15. They were only given permission to return to their homes a few days ago, on July 27.
Trudeau was asked why it took him more than 20 days to visit towns struggling through the fire season.
"We were looking for a time for me to be able to thank people but not get in the way,” he replied.
"I’m pleased to be here now, but my first priority, as always, is not getting in the way of work emergency services does."
Trudeau was also asked why Ottawa has not matched citizens’ donations to the Canadian Red Cross, as the federal government has done during previous disasters abroad, such as the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and during the 2016 wildfires around Fort McMurray, Alberta.
"We listen to the experts on the best way we can help,” he said. Trudeau emphasized that authorities’ response to the fires is adequately funded and said that the Red Cross is satisfied with how funds are being allocated. He added that Ottawa remains in an open dialogue on how it can best provide support.
During the past month, wildfires in B.C. have forced almost 50,000 people from their homes.
As the prime minister spoke in Williams Lake, more than 350 firefighters worked to contain a blaze just four hours’ drive south, in Elephant Hill. That fire has so far burned more than 78,000 hectares, one of many that remain uncontained.
A campfire ban remains in effect across the province.
On July 31, Environment Canada warned that an "extended stretch of hot weather" is expected to hit southern B.C. this week.
"Daily temperature records from Tuesday to Thursday will probably be broken in many communities," a statement reads. "And the all time records for the month of August may be threatened, too.
"Those most vulnerable to high temperatures include young children, pregnant women, the elderly, those working or exercising in the heat, persons with chronic illnesses, people living alone in un-air-conditioned homes, and the homeless.”