The Cariboo Regional District is supporting calls for a B.C. State of Emergency to bring attention to more than 300 fires burning across the province – 60 of them in the Cariboo.
CRD Chair Margo Wagner said the board voted Friday morning to send a letter to the Premier, following on the heels of a local CRD state of emergency for the region issued Thursday night. The Thompson Nicola Regional District Board also voted to send a letter seeking a provincial SoE declaration Thursday, while the District of 100 Mile Council passed a similar resolution Friday.
The call comes as Environment Canada predicts a 60 per cent chance of rain with a risk of thunderstorm for 100 Mile House Friday afternoon and evening. Environment Canada also issued a special air quality statement for the area due to wildfire smoke over the next 24-48 hours.
“It raises the concerns and profile of the province that we’re in a major state of emergency,” Wagner said. “My concern is post 2021 because we still have a lot of mental health issues still carried over form 2017, there’s still lot of triggers going on – the fires are close and stressing people out and then we had COVID. It will help post-fire to get more help, to get resources in for mental health.”
The BC Wildfire Service is battling nine wildfires of note in the Cariboo Fire District, including a 10,000-hectare Flat Lake blaze that has resulted in evacuation orders for Flat Lake-Green Lake North and evacuation alerts for the District of 100 Mile House and Horse Lake Road. Other evacuations or alerts are in effect as a result of fires south of Canim Lake, near Young Lake, the Chasm and Big Stick Lake.
The City of Williams Lake added its support for a State of Emergency Friday night.
“Declaring a provincial state of emergency helps ensure that communities in need of resources have the means to assist the response efforts and support those who are displaced and affected by the fires,” said Mayor Walt Cobb. “With the hot, dry weather continuing, we must be prepared to hit these fires hard and get the situation under control the best we can.”
Emergency Management B.C. said in an email to the Free Press Friday that the province is currently deploying all available resources to respond to wildfires across B.C., and that this can be done without a provincial state of emergency.
“A provincial declaration of a state of emergency has not been necessary to provide assistance to people, to access funding, or to coordinate or obtain additional resources – including federal assets,” the email stated. “The federal government and the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre are providing firefighting personnel, aircraft support, and other assets.”
Premier John Horgan also said Friday that firefighters from Quebec and Mexico are en route to assist with local efforts.
With a file from Canadian Press