B.C. declares state of emergency due to raging wildfires amid increasing evacuations

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      Mere weeks after British Columbia called off the longest-running state of emergency in the province’s history, a new state of emergency is being declared—for a different reason.

      The previous state of emergency was declared on March 18, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic; was extended 34 times; lasted about 67 weeks long; and ended on June 30 of this year.

      B.C. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth made today’s declaration, which is effective as of tomorrow (July 21), due to the wildfires across the province.  

      The state of emergency remains in effect for 14 days and can be extended or cancelled, ensures that governments at all levels (municipal, provincial, and federal) provided a coordinated response, and gives “extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act" to the provincial government, Farnworth explained in a news release.  

      Farnworth warned of a situation developing the B.C. Interior that the province is preparing for.

      "In a briefing last night, I received word that we'll be facing a few days of very difficult weather in the Interior,” he said. “This declaration will address the potential of a mass evacuation scenario and provide our government with the means to secure the accommodation spaces necessary to house our citizens, if necessary."

      An extended weather forecast is predicting continued hot and dry conditions.

      The B.C. Wildfire Service has issued a wind warning for the Interior, southern Interior, and southeastern B.C. from today until Thursday (July 22), which “may significantly impact fire growth in these regions”, will likely increase the rate of fire spread, and “the direction of fire growth may change quickly on some wildfires”.

      As of today (July 20), there are 299 active wildfires in B.C., and 40 evacuation orders underway that affect approximately 5,724 people (2,862 properties). That’s in addition to 69 evacuation alerts affecting approximately 32,076 people (16,038 properties).

      The village of Lytton was destroyed in a wildfire that blazed out of control on June 30.

      Currently there are over 3,180 firefighters and resource staff, including 1,080 contractors and 135 out-of-province resources (such as firefighters from Quebec and Mexico), fighting fires across B.C.

      Federal personnel and resources will also soon be arriving in B.C. to help with wildfire efforts.

      Information on evacuation orders and alerts is available at the Emergency Info B.C. website and social media, and information about the current wildfire situation is available at the B.C. Wildfire website and social media.

      Road condition updates can be found at the DriveBC website and social media. 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.