B.C. Indigenous leaders are calling on the provincial government to step up its response to the 306 active wildfires in the province.
They want a province-wide state of emergency declaration.
“People losing their entire life investment in their properties is just unacceptable,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs’ president.
“An entire town has burnt to the ground with loss of life. These fires are increasing with about 26 new fires every couple of days. We’re not even in full fire season, which is August, and these fires continue to intensify.”
Phillip told Global News on Saturday that he believes the response to the wildfires needs to be increased, especially for rural and indigenous communities that are more vulnerable.
“Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable because we don’t have the capacity to fight the wildfires,” said Phillip.
“Most of our communities don’t have fire trucks and that type of equipment. We’re vulnerable and we live in remote areas, the wildfires are in those regions and pose a real threat.”
The B.C. Premier addressed the calls for a province-wide state of emergency on Friday.
“I am absolutely prepared to call a state of emergency when it is required by those professionals that are putting their lives on the line to protect families, property and British Columbia,” said John Horgan, in a press conference.
In the Okanagan, support for the idea that a province-wide state of emergency should be declared is mixed.
“I don’t think going into a state of emergency is the way to do it — they should have already been reallocating resources to fight these fires,” said Sebbi Unipan, a Kelowna resident.
“One hundred per cent for. I think we need to get it dealt with as soon as possible. No red tape. Get the money where it needs to go and fight these fires. There’s a lot of land at stake, people’s properties, lives and resources. It needs to be dealt with swiftly,” Andrew Brown told Global News on Saturday.
“I’m 100 per cent for. A lot of these fires, they could of jumped on them a lot sooner and they would not be as out of control. And just to wait until the point we can’t breathe? Not good. It should have been done a lot sooner,” said Rob Rossingnol, a Vernon resident.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has also called on the province to invoke the provincial state of emergency.