B.C. lifts state of emergency over wildfires but danger isn't over
Derek Campbell uses a hose to direct water outside a fire guard line during a controlled burn being performed to help prevent the Finlay Creek wildfire from spreading near Peachland, B.C., on Thursday, September 7, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Darryl Dyck)
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, September 15, 2017 4:00PM EDT
VANCOUVER -- The British Columbia government is lifting a provincial state of emergency declared more than two months ago before what would become the province's worst fire season on record.
The declaration that expires at midnight Friday was made July 7 after dozens of out-of-control wildfires broke out in B.C.'s Interior, forcing thousands of people from their homes.
The state of emergency allowed for better co-ordination between agencies responding to the fires and to public safety needs, and a $100-million fund was made available to support thousands of evacuees.
Over 11,700 square kilometres of land has been charred since April 1, which the BC Wildfire Service said is the largest area burned in the province's recorded history.
"While the extraordinary powers of the provincial state of emergency are no longer required, the wildfire season is not over," the government said in a news release Friday. "It is vital that the public remain prepared and follow the continued direction of local authorities"
There are still 153 fires burning in B.C., and 11 evacuation orders are in place affecting more than 3,000 people.
There are another 23 evacuation alerts for communities in the province, meaning that more than 5,700 people have been told to prepare to leave at a moment's notice.
At the peak of the crisis, Canadian Armed Forces members and equipment were deployed to support evacuation efforts and relieve the RCMP, which also increased its staffing in affected areas.
The wildfire service said it has spent more than $510 million on fighting the flames so far this year as fires continue to burn out of control in southeastern B.C.
The last time the province called a state of emergency was in August 2003, also in response to wildfires, but that period only lasted six weeks.
The federal government created a new ad hoc cabinet committee to co-ordinate its response to the fires, including recovery and rebuilding efforts. The committee includes the ministers of justice, national defence, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Public Safety Canada.
In an effort to prevent fires, an off-road vehicles ban was put in place affecting Crown land in the Cariboo, Kamloops and Southeast fire centres.
Campfire bans also remain in effect for the southern parts of the province.
The federal and provincial governments announced a $20-million fund would be made available to farmers to help replace lost breeding animals and restore damaged lands, while additional money would be provided to small businesses that lost revenue due to a drop in tourism, evacuations and road closures.