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State of emergency for B.C.’s wildfires not ‘necessary’ at this time: officials

Cars destroyed by wildfire and a damaged structure are seen along the Trans-Canada Highway near Lytton, B.C., on Friday, July 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

With more than 223,000 hectares burned by wildfires in the province since April 1, and 30 evacuation orders 51 evacuation alerts in place as of Thursday, many B.C. residents are frustrated that the government has not declared a provincial state of emergency.

The measure is enacted to ensure provincial, federal and local resources can be delivered in a coordinated response to protect residents.

In August 2018, it was declared when 566 wildfires were burning in B.C., with 29 evacuation orders in effect in addition to 48 evacuation alerts.

In 2017, B.C. saw the longest state of emergency in the province’s history, lasting a total of 10 weeks, also because of wildfires.

The province first declared it on July 7 when nearly 3,000 people had to leave their homes in one day and 56 new wildfires broke out. It was extended four times.

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Read more: B.C. wildfire map 2021: Location and size of the fires burning around the province

Currently, there are 306 active fires burning in the province, with 26 started in the last two days.

There are 28 wildfires of note, meaning they are visible or pose a threat to people and communities.

Read more: Wildfires are raging in B.C.’s Cariboo region but residents frustrated by government

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Brendan Ralfs, director of response for Emergency Management BC, said he wants to remind everyone that a state of emergency is “primarily a legislative tool.”

“During this current event, 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 to support both response efforts and people who are affected or impacted by the event.”

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He said the province is providing all necessary and requested resources across B.C.

“Any declaration of a provincial state of emergency will be done on the advice of Emergency Management BC and BC Wildfire officials and a provincial state of emergency will be activated if and when it is required.”

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