Wildfire Situation ‘Serious and Escalating’
Prince George, B.C. – The provincial government is “bringing all resources to bear” in an effort to fight wildfires across the province.
Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations John Rustad made the comments during a province-wide teleconference this afternoon.
He noted the situation across B.C. – in particular the Cariboo – remains “serious and is escalating” and has prompted Victoria to seek additional help from the Lower Mainland and other provinces.
“Currently all staff available has been deployed to the Cariboo (roughly 1,000 personnel) along with around 200 contractors.”
Rustad estimated the call for additional staff out of province will bring in an additional 260 personnel.
He said roughly 3,000 households (approximately 7,000 people) have been evacuated in B.C. – including Cache Creek, Ashcroft, Princeton, parts of Williams Lake, the North Cariboo, 105 Mile, 108 Mile and Lac La Hache.
(The Cariboo Regional District said today there have no new evacuation orders or alerts since yesterday.)
Rustad added many of the evacuees have been sent to Kamloops, Williams Lake and some to Prince George at the College of New Caledonia.
He said 142 new fires were sparked yesterday and noted the smoke and fog has made mapping the fires difficult. Rustad also acknowledged that some structures have been lost. Due to the smoke and fog however he said it’s been difficult to pinpoint exact locations.
Rustad said the goal of emergency personnel is to “protect life while the secondary goal is to protect key infrastructure like roads and homes.”
He said industrial operations have been shut down in the Cariboo to minimize problems and asked residents to ensure they follow campfire bans in their respective areas.
Rustad also heaped praise on emergency personnel including the RCMP, Ministry of Forests, Emergency Management BC and others for their role in getting information out to the public.
He added the State of Emergency declared last night – the first such declaration since the Kelowna wildfires in 2003 – will give “us additional powers if we need additional resources.”
Rustad said the Province has been in touch with the federal government should it need extra help – including the military.
“The weather situation is not favourable. Strong winds with the risk of dry lightning continues along with hot weather. So, we know the situation will continue to grow.”