British Columbia, its westernmost province Canada, declared today a state of emergency due to fires, which are expected to increase in the coming days due to the heat and strong winds. “We have reached a critical juncture,” British Columbia’s Public Security Secretary Mike Farnworth told a news conference. “Based on the recommendations of those responsible for managing emergencies and forest fires, and due to the deterioration of meteorological conditions, I declare a state of emergency in the province,” he added, as reported by APE.
The decision allows for a mass evacuation of homes in the area and provides the government with the means to provide housing for those who will be evicted from their homes, the minister also clarified. More than 5,700 people in the province were ordered to leave their homes on Tuesday, more than double the number from the previous day, and more than 32,000 people have been warned they may have to leave their homes due to fire, but this is not mandatory at the moment.
“Please prepare an evacuation plan for your family,” said Cliff Chapman, head of firefighting operations in British Columbia, adding that 3,000 square kilometers had already been burned. According to him, this area is already three times larger than the average of the last ten years. Almost 300 forest fires are raging in the area and the heat and drought combined with stronger winds are expected to continue in the coming days, mainly in the interior and southwest of this province which borders the US. More than 3,180 firefighters and staff have been mobilized in the province.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint”
The fires have been raging in western Canada for several weeks after a severe heat wave in late June due to climate change, experts say. On the other side of the border, 83 fires are raging in the United States, some of which are so dangerous that firefighters liken them to “monsters.” The Butleg Fire in Oregon is by far the largest. Its area is already larger than that of the city of Los Angeles and does not stop expanding, strengthened by strong winds and severe drought.
Even New York, on the other side of the country, was covered yesterday, Tuesday, by a gray veil due to smoke from the fires, something that forced the city to sound the alarm for air quality. “This is a marathon, not a sprint”, underlined Rob Allen, who is in charge of fire management in this area. About 2,250 firefighters are fighting night and day to bring the blaze under control. “We will be there for as long as it takes to bring this monster under complete safe control,” he vowed.