Crews and equipment from the lower mainland, southern Vancouver Island and around the world have been arriving in the region to battle some of the worst wildfires experienced in decades.
The B.C. crews are from municipal departments with the task of protecting structures while international wildfire crews are spelling off B.C. Wildlife Service personnel who, exhausted from their intensive efforts, are beginning to go on mandatory rest.
From Delta, B.C., the municipality’s wildland firefighting apparatus with a few of four, a battalion chief and a deputy chief are in the Fort St. James area where the Shovel Lake fire, the largest now burning in the province, has caused evacuations.
“We are always there if the province needs us,” said Delta fire chief Paul Schofield of the call for help received from the provincial Office of the Fire Commission received Monday in advance of the provincial state of emergency declared yesterday morning.
The Delta crew, with its specialized apparatus that can deal with wildfires, is there into the coming weekend an can be spelled off with other Delta firefighters if needed.
The White Rock fire department has also responded, providing one piece of equipment and three firefighters.
And from the West Shore area near Victoria on southern Vancouver Island, crews are also in the Fort St. James area and around Burns Lake.
That list includes personnel from Langford, Metchosin and Sooke.
Aside from firefighters, senior officials are at command posts in Fort St. James and south of Burns Lake near the massive Verdun fire.
“It’s just what firefighters do, they want to help out and they see a need and they have the skills. They want to see if they can help make a difference and it doesn’t matter if it’s at home or abroad,” Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey said.
“Whatever we can do to help out, because we know they’ll do the same for us.”
View Royal Fire Rescue near Victoria will also be sending a truck, along with three firefighters and one from North Saanich, who will leave Friday morning to help in the Echo Lake area.
Firefighters will help extinguish any fires that start around structures, out buildings or homes and conduct town patrols in the evening.
On Wednesday, the province declared a state of emergency as more than 500 wildfires burned across B.C. The wildfires have sparked 29 evacuation orders affecting more than 3,000 people, as well as 48 evacuation alerts affecting almost 19,000 people.
Last summer, several firefighters from the Langford, Metchosin, View Royal and Sooke fire departments also helped battle wildfires in the central and southern Interior.
Mike Farnworth, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General declared yesterday’s state of emergency following consultations with BC Wildfire and Emergency Management officials.
“Public safety is always our first priority and, as wildfire activity is expected to increase, this is a progressive step in our wildfire response to make sure British Columbia has access to any and all resources necessary,” … “Taking this step will further ensure we can protect the public, property and infrastructure, and assist with firefighting efforts.”
The State of Emergency will be in effect for the next 14 days and may be rescinded or extended depending on the situation on Aug. 29.
Wildfire crews from Alberta, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories,Quebec, Saskatchewan and Parks Canada have been arriving in the province to assist the more than 3,300 firefighters already on duty. Crews from Mexico, Australia and New Zealand are also now in the province.
Last night the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) rescinded the evacuation order issued Aug. 7 for the Gilmore Lake Fire, which is burning approximately eight km southwest of Topley.
The Gilmore fire is currently 100 per cent contained. The fire’s status is expected to change from ‘active’ to ‘being held’ this week.
– With files from the Peace Arch News, the Delta Optimist, the Goldstream Gazette and Flavio Nienow.