VANCOUVER – Canada’s Emergency Preparedness Minister says he is expecting a “fairly substantive” request for help from British Columbia as wildfires worsen.
Bill Blair tells The Canadian Press the government operations centre has been in discussions with the province for the last several days, and Ottawa is ready to deploy needed resources as the formal request for help is expected Thursday.
“The fire season now is obviously sparking up pretty seriously out there and they have sent us an indication of some additional resources that they will require,” he said in an interview Thursday.
“For the last 48 hours we’ve been working with Canadian Armed Forces, Parks Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and people from the Canadian Coast Guard,” said Blair. “There’s a lot of different federal departments all mobilizing their response to the requirements of British Columbia.”
He said the federal help could include military assistance for airlift evacuations from remote locations, as well as members of the military trained as firefighters who can provide “mop up” to keep blazes from reigniting once they’ve been put out.
“If there are communities that become isolated and need to be evacuated, then Canadian Armed Forces provides those resources,” Blair said.
The Canadian Coast Guard is also mobilizing support for affected coastal communities and Natural Resources Canada staff with forest management expertise are also preparing to help, he said.
Blair adds there are a number of national parks in B.C., so Parks Canada is ready to aid the province with park firefighters and forest management experts.
Blair says B.C. is one of the better equipped provinces to handle fires because it is often among the hardest hit, but any extra help needed is being made available.
Premier David Eby said earlier this week the province was looking for more firefighting support, particularly air equipment, in its battle against wildfires.
He said forecasts suggest B.C. and Canada face the worst fire season in 100 years.
Eby expressed gratitude for the help provided by international firefighters from Mexico and the United States who are on the frontlines with provincial crews.
There are more than 350 wildfires burning in all corners of the province, and the BC Wildfire Service warns another blast of heat in many areas could add more burdens on already overstretched crews.
The wildfire service says a week-old, 300-square-kilometre blaze close to Highway 37 just south of the Yukon boundary has been calm, but it and similar fires across northern B.C. could flare up during the next several days of expected hot weather.
Feature image by iStock.com/SMJoness