More help coming from Quebec as B.C.’s wildfire situation heats up

More help coming from Quebec as B.C.’s wildfire situation heats up
BC Wildfire Service

More help is on the way for exhausted fire crews in British Columbia who are battling nearly 270 wildfires, along with high heat and strong winds.

Quebec’s forest fire protection agency says a contingent of firefighters will arrive in Abbotsford, B.C., on Sunday for a 14-day deployment.

The agency says the 153-person team includes 140 firefighters and is the largest-ever deployment of Quebec’s resources outside that province.

About 400 firefighters have been dispatched by the Quebec agency to help fight blazes in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario since the start of the fire season, while B.C. has also welcomed crews from Yukon, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and as far away as Mexico.

The help comes as municipal fire crews from across B.C. reach Logan Lake, southwest of Kamloops, to assist with fire protection.

The community of about 2,000 was evacuated Thursday as flames from the 380-square-kilometre Tremont Creek wildfire flared up, also prompting evacuation alerts for properties east of Logan Lake, including the community of Cherry Creek.

Logan Lake Mayor Robin Smith says crews have come from as far away as Elkford, Mackenzie and Burnaby to help put up sprinklers to protect area homes.

“I do want to just congratulate the community in evacuating in a safe and orderly manner,” says Smith.

“We did manage to get everybody out fairly quickly, so that was encouraging for us.”

A statement from the wildfire service addresses the unexpected growth of the Tremont Creek fire on Thursday.

“This escape is not a result of the controlled ignitions that were done about eight kilometres to the north,” the wildfire service says.

Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care said in a statement that they are working with the Interior Health Authority to house seniors from an Armstrong, B.C., long-term care home who have been displaced by the wildfire.

Residents of some communities have been critical of the actions or inactions of the service after homes and businesses were lost last week as the White Rock Creek wildfire was fanned by high winds.

Fire officials at a briefing on Thursday admitted the criticism has been difficult to hear for crews who are on the front lines.

Environment Canada said a heat wave gripping much of southern and coastal B.C. should ease by Sunday and could be replaced by showers in some areas. But there’s concern the shift could also bring lightning, creating the potential for more wildfires.

Public health officials in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities said they are concerned about the rise in temperatures expected over the coming days.

“This is considered an emergency situation,” said Dr. Michael Schwandt, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health. “It can be a life-or-death situation for many people.”

He added that his health authority has received feedback from the public on how it managed the “heat dome” event in late June that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of people.

The number of cooling centres has been increased, as has the work being done on outreach.

“We can always improve and constantly improve. This is climate change adaptation and will be a topic for years to come,” Schwandt said.

Dr. Ariella Zbar, a medical health officer with Fraser Health, said there are also concerns about the harm posed by wildfire smoke.

She urged children, seniors and those with pre-existing health conditions to limit the amount of time they spend outdoors in an effort to reduce the risk posed by smoke.

Metro Vancouver is continuing its air quality advisory, warning of high concentrations of fine particulate matter expected to persist through Saturday.

The district said outflow winds are bringing smoke from wildfires burning in B.C. and Washington state into the region.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2021.

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