WATCH: Vancouver Island fire fighters are deploying to the interior in response to the declared state of emergency. Isabelle Raghem reports.
Vancouver Island fire fighters are deploying to the Interior this weekend after a state of emergency was declared in B.C. for the first time in more than a decade.
The provincial government took the rare step Friday night in response to a series of fierce and fast-growing wildfires.
A statement from the province says Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and Minister responsible for Emergency Management B.C., says he wants to ensure a co-ordinated response to the current situation and to ensure public safety.
“Given the current wildfire situation and the expected increase in wildfire activity, the Province is taking this extraordinary measure of declaring a provincial state of emergency,” the statement reads.
The fires burning out of control in several areas in the B.C. Interior have already forced the evacuation of the entire town of Cache Creek, closed the airport in Williams Lake and forced thousands of people from their homes.
More than 40 new fires sparked overnight Friday, bringing the number of blazes to 182 by Saturday morning. There are now more than 220 fires burning.
One of the biggest and fastest growing is near Ashcroft, about 120 kilometres west of Kamloops.
“The situation has escalated and it is a serious situation and the province is bringing and sparing all the resources available,” Forestry Minister John Rustad said Saturday afternoon.
Fire crews on Vancouver Island are responding to the call for help.
“We’re getting a tremendous amount of response from our department with guys that are willing to give up whatever and head off to help out with the situation,” says Acting Chief Rob Marshall with View Royal Fire.
The department loaded up a truck with equipment Saturday, as four fire fighters are set to drive it to the interior this week. They will be joining the department’s fire chief who was deployed to the area Friday evening.
“As early as tomorrow morning or Monday morning we’ll see this truck heading on up the Coquihalla,” Acting Chief Marshall added.
The fires sparking vivid memories the last time the province declared a state of emergency, when parts of Kelowna were destroyed by wildfires 14 summer ago.
“This is very similar to what we saw back in 2003 with the Okanagan mountain park fire,” Acting Chief Marshall says, “we don’t have the same conditions they get in the Interior so this is common for Island departments to get involved.”
More than 30 mobile homes and several buildings are believed to have been destroyed but so far no injuries have been reported.
More hot and dry weather is in the forecast, which means the situation could worsen in the next couple days.