Out of province fire crews, armed forces, heading to B.C. to help with wildfires

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Teams from Ontario and New Brunswick are arriving in British Columbia to assist with devastating wildfires.

The BC Wildfire Service says the nearly 100 out-of-province members must pass COVID-19 safety checks before being sent into the field.

Public Safety Canada also says it has committed the Armed Forces for airlift support to carry crews, supplies and equipment in and out of fire zones and to assist with emergency evacuations if needed.

The wildfire service says 196 active wildfires are currently burning in B.C., with at least 40 sparked over the weekend.

Evacuation orders are in place because of five of those wildfires, including one near Lytton, where a fire that destroyed much of the village last Wednesday covers 76 square kilometres but didn’t grow significantly Sunday.

Separate fires north of Kamloops and east of 100 Mile House have also forced hundreds of people from their homes and prompted evacuation alerts for hundreds more.

A non-profit agency that coordinates interprovincial aid and resources warns more difficult days lie ahead in B.C.

“Anticipating multiple fire-starts each day over the next (three) days,” says the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre in its report issued Sunday.

Environment Canada is maintaining heat warnings for several B.C. regions, including areas where many of the most threatening wildfires continue to burn.

Daytime highs of 35 C and nighttime lows barely falling below 20 C increase the risk of wildfires due to drought conditions, says the weather office.

Lightning is in Monday’s forecast for many of the at-risk regions, with a chance of showers.

Environment Canada predicts the heat wave that began last month will continue at least through Monday night.

Meanwhile, Saanich’s fire chief says dangers in the South Island city are currently extreme.

“As you know, we’ve had a terribly dry spring, not a lot of rainfall, and some unprecedented warm weather for a great deal of time” said Chief Dan Wood.

The department is asking people to be vigilant, report any fires they see and be smart when putting out combustible materials like cigarettes.

“People that throw cigarettes out of vehicles are still one of the largest causes of fires in our grassland areas, especially around highways and boulevard areas,” he said. “We’ve had an unprecedented number of median burns and grass burns because of people throwing smoking materials out of their vehicles.”

Wood said he has also never seen conditions this bad so relatively early in the year.

“We’re in unprecedented times and as we all know, things are changing, the climate is changing,” he said.

With files from the Canadian Press


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