VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The federal government is sending troops to B.C. to help fight the wildfires after the province made a formal request for aide.
B.C. requested 200 personnel, heavy-lift aircraft to reposition wildfire crews and equipment, and lighter aircraft to transport of injured personnel and to evacuate people in remote areas when roads are blocked, according to Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth.
“The federal government has indicated that they will respond very quickly to our needs,” Farnworth said.
In a release, sent out shortly after the province’s announcement, Ottawa said it is making air assets available along with around 200 troops to help in mop-up operations to contain the fire’s spread.
“British Columbians can rest assured that help will be provided as soon as possible,” the release said.
Farnworth says he does not know exactly when the aide will arrive, but it will be up to the B.C. Wildfire Service to decide where they will go. He says B.C. is also working with the Canadian National Fire Centre to access firefighters from other countries and province, including 100 crews from Mexico who arrived over the weekend.
Around 588 wildfires continue to eat up the province, half of which were sparked since last Thursday.
Lighting activity, brought in by a cold front, caused most of the fires over the weekend, but a return to hot and dry conditions this week has fire crews concerned about human-caused fires.
“[This week’s weather] is a bit of a double-edged sword for us,” B.C. Wildfire Service information officer Ryan Turcot said. “Clear conditions without precipitation means that there’s room for fires to grow but we’re not expecting any significant lighting events this week.”
He encourages anyone heading into the back country to be cautious and avoid activity that could either directly cause a fire, such as campfires and smoking, or indirectly, like hot tail pipes and disturbing dry brush.
Wildfire Service says about 3,500 crew members, including front-line firefighters, support staff and people working behind the scenes, are fairly evenly spread across the province.
Of the near 600 wildfires, 46 are of note, with the most notable being in the province’s northwest region and the Cariboo.
Around 3,100 people were forced to leave 1,537 properties across the province, while another 17,900 are under alert and must be ready to leave if conditions get worse.
Air quality advisories continue to blanket the southern half of B.C. and wildfire smoke is causing hazy conditions.
Despite a higher number of wildfires so far this season compared to last year, they have been smaller. Since the start of season on April 1, the fires have burned 291,000 hectares, compared to 687,000 by this time last year.