British Columbia

B.C. battling double the number of wildfires seen last year at this time

There are 85 wildfires currently burning in B.C. Seven of them are classified by the B.C. Wildfire Service as notable and have prompted five evacuation alerts.

Province says crews here must focus on B.C. and can't be sent to Alberta

A wildfire burns in the Peace River region of B.C. where there are several evacuation alerts in place. (Tim Repas)

As Fort McMurray declares a state of emergency because of the massive wildfires there, B.C. continues to grapple with its own situation mainly in the Peace River region of the province.

There are 85 wildfires currently burning. Seven of them have been classified by the B.C. Wildfire Service as notable and have prompted several evacuation alerts. Since April 1, there have been 203 wildfires with more than 23,000 hectares burned.

"Those numbers are unusually high for this time of year," provincial fire information officer Kevin Skrepnik said.

"We're [at] nearly twice the number of fires that we've responded to for this time of year and in terms of hectares we're almost 20 times above average for where we would normally be for this time of year."

Of the evacuation alerts in B.C., four are in the Peace River area.

  • The Cecil Lake/Goodlow Area in Electoral Area B.
  • The Siphon Creek area in Electoral Area B.
  • The area two kilometres north of the Doig River First Nation.
  • The Beatton Airport Road Area

B.C. crews too busy to help in Alberta

The province says the Peace River wildfires are preventing crews from going to Alberta's aid.

"We can't take resources away from our priorities and protecting our communities in the Peace River. That's where we need to focus our resources," said Forests Minister Steve Thomson. 

"Alberta understands that. We're providing equipment. We have provided them the contacts and the linkages to additional air assets that can be made available, and we will see how that evolves over the day." 

Thomson says the focus for Alberta is on getting help from provinces that have the resources available. While B.C. can't send manpower, Thomson says Alberta has requested some equipment.

"Over 100 pumps are on their way, fire hose, significant lengths of fire hose in support of their efforts.  We've also provided the contact information and connections for the Alberta Wildfire Service to connect with our air resources that are available that aren't currently deployed here in British Columbia and in use in British Columbia and that work is underway."

Port Alberni-based Coulson Flying Tankers has written on its Facebook page that it has sent one of the company' s Sikorsky S-61s to help fight the blaze in Fort McMurray and that its second aircraft will be offered as well once it returns from Australia next week.

One of B.C.'s larger fires is at Siphon Creek, which is approximately six kilometres from the Alberta border, threatening to cross the provincial boundary.

"What they really need British Columbia to do is to make sure that we are containing the fires within our own borders so that they don't jump the border," said Premier Christy Clark.

"Now if the Syphon Creek fire moves to the east, we would certainly follow it, which isn't normally what we would do. Alberta firefighters are working as hard as they possibly can and we don't want to add to their burden. We want to try and take that away a little bit."

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