British Columbia is once again under a provincial state of emergency.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth declared a state of emergency on Tuesday afternoon in response to ongoing wildfires burning across the province.
It will take effect at midnight, Tuesday, July 20.
The forecast in parts of the province calls for shifts in winds and weather, raising concerns that property evacuations could rise to a level not yet seen this fire season, the government said.
The province previously declared states of emergencies linked to fires in 2003, 2017 and 2018.
On July 1, 2021, B.C. concluded a 16-month state of emergency, by far the longest in the province’s history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days once issued and may be extended or rescinded as necessary.
A state of emergency provides the province the ability to acquire land use or personal property to prevent or alleviate the effects of the emergency.
It also gives the government powers to control or prohibit travel to or from any area in B.C. and allows for the removal of trees, structures, or crops.
The province also has the authority to enter into any building or land without a warrant.
Farnworth said the decision to go to a provincial state of emergency was based on the advice of experts and due in part to the significant stretch of dry weather that is in the forecast.
“In a briefing last night, I received word that we’ll be facing a few days of very difficult weather in the Interior,” Farnworth added. “This declaration will address the potential of a mass evacuation scenario and provide our government with the means to secure the accommodation spaces necessary to house our citizens, if necessary.”
More than 3,000 wildfire personnel are currently battling blazes around the province.
In the coming days, federal personnel and resources will be arriving in B.C. to assist with wildfire efforts along with firefighters from Mexico.
On Monday afternoon, the Inkaneep Creek wildfire, now named the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire, ignited near Osoyoos.
More than 200 properties within the Osoyoos Indian Band have been ordered either to evacuate immediately or to be on alert due to a fast-moving new wildfire that sparked in the area Monday evening.
The First Nation and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) have declared a state of local emergency due to the now 1,100-hectare blaze, which broke out at approximately 4 p.m. near Inkameep Road, on the Osoyoos Indian Band Reserve (OIB) between Oliver and Osoyoos, B.C.
There were growing calls for a provincial state of emergency as more evacuation orders and alerts were issued in recent days.
Last week, B.C. Premier John Horgan said it was not necessary at that time.
“There is not one advantage” to calling a state of emergency except to bring more people together, Horgan said Friday.
Since April 1, almost 1,145 fire “incidents” have been recorded in the province with 300,000 hectares burned to date.
The B.C. Wildfire Service said this is about 200,000 more than the 10-year average at this time in the season.
There are currently 299 wildfires burning in the province, 37 of which are considered to be highly visible or a threat to public safety.
Forty evacuation orders affecting approximately 5,724 people (2,862 properties), in addition to 69 evacuation alerts impacting approximately 32,076 people (16,038 properties) are in place as in Tuesday.
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