B.C. is in a state of emergency — here’s what that means for fighting wildfires

Click to play video: 'Province declares state of emergency as wildfires grow' Province declares state of emergency as wildfires grow
WATCH: Our Legislative Bureau Chief Keith Baldrey breaks down what the state of emergency declaration means, and how long it's expected to last – Aug 15, 2018

British Columbia declared a state of emergency on Tuesday due to the unusually extreme wildfire season it’s been experiencing this summer.

While it may sound like a simple announcement, declaring a “state of emergency” actually gives the province access to more resources from the government and allows them it to take additional actions to protect their civilians people and contain the situation.

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Here’s what declaring a “state of emergency” means for B.C. in its fight against the province-wide wildfires.

What resources does the province have access to?

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale released a statement Monday that the federal government had accepted a formal request from B.C.’s government for federal wildfire assistance.

Air assets will be made available to transport firefighting personnel and equipment, support medical evacuations and move people in remote communities out of harm’s way,” the ministers said in their joint statement.

READ MORE: B.C. declares provincial state of emergency due to wildfires

The federal government offered approximately 200 troops to be sent in mop-up operations to contain the spread of the fires. In addition, federal services will help with the coordination and distribution of response efforts.

What additional powers does the province have?

Under a state of emergency, the province is granted several additional powers that it does not possess under normal circumstances.“It allows the province to implement emergency measures and allows us to access any assets that might be necessary,” explained Ryan Turcot, a Fire Information Officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service. More specifically, the province now has:
  • the ability to temporarily possess any land or property required for fighting the wildfires
  • the ability to control or prohibit travel to, from and within the province
  •  the right to restore or construct facilities needed for fighting the wildfires
  • the right to implement fixed prices on goods or ration supplies
None of those options are currently being explored, explained Turcot – but the province has the power to do those things if it becomes necessary.

READ MORE: Here's why is B.C.'s 2018 wildfire season is so extreme, and why it's not over yet

“Certainly what I can say there is the provincial state of emergency represents the fact that we’re actively exploring every option that we can to resource the current fire situation as best as possible,” said Turcot.

What does it take to declare a state of emergency?

The Canadian Armed Forces were also called in last year during massive flooding in Ontario and Quebec, ice storms in New Brunswick, and during the Fort McMurray wildfires of 2016. This operation, according to previous Global News reporting, is called Operation LENTUS and has been deployed 14 times since 2010.

READ MORE: Here’s what it takes to call in the army when there’s a natural disaster

Operation LENTUS can draw support from the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force if needed.

In order for a province to declare a state of emergency, it must make a formal request to the federal government.

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