100 more Ontario firefighters on way to help B.C. fight wildfires

About 100 northern Ontario firefighters headed west on Wednesday to help fight wildfires that are ravaging parts of B.C.'s Interior.

Crews from Sudbury and Dryden to join 250 Ontario firefighters already in B.C.

A fire burns in Lake Country, B.C., in this July 16, 2017 Twitter handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout/West Kelowna Fire)

About 100 northern Ontario firefighters headed west on Wednesday to help fight wildfires that are ravaging parts of B.C.'s Interior.

Crews left Sudbury, Ont., on Wednesday afternoon in a chartered aircraft and were expected to pick up crews in Dryden, Ont. They were expected to arrive in Kamloops, B.C. later Wednesday.

Some will stay in Kamloops, while others will go to Prince George, B.C. The crews are primarily "on the ground" full-time firefighters, but they include technical experts and supervisory staff.

Crews will join more than 250 Ontario firefighters already in B.C. helping to battle blazes in the central and southern part of the province, said Carin Glassford, information officer for the Ontario natural resources and forestry ministry's emergency operations centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. 

"We do our best to fill requests to help British Columbia while we remain well-staffed to respond to any forest fires that may arise here at home," she said this week.

"We just know that they need our help right now because it's a very serious situation." 
RCMP talk with travellers along the highway roadblock just outside of Cache Creek, B.C., on Tuesday. Residents were allowed back into their homes after the area was evacuated more than 10 days ago due to wildfires. ( THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett)

Glassford said Canadian provinces and territories have a "mutual aid" agreement through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre under which they help each other during "periods of forest fire escalation."

Of the 250 Ontario firefighters already in B.C., a group left on July 11 and another group left on July 15. Glassford said they also left from Sudbury, stopped in Dryden to pick up crews, then flew to B.C. The crews can stay there for up to 19 days before returning home for a rest.

The Ontario firefighters now in B.C. are working on "significant" fires near the B.C. communities of Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House. She said she is not sure where the next shipment of firefighters will go.

"Of course, managing wildfires is a very fluid process and the needs can change quickly," she said. "We work collaboratively with B.C. to ensure our crews are deployed where they are needed most."

Glassford said the Ontario government has also sent equipment to B.C., including 5,000 sections of 1.5-inch fire hose, 100 pump kits and two mobile structural protection units, which contain industrial sprinkler systems.

Crews use the units to set up sprinklers on structures, including houses, when a fire is close or likely to burn over. Ontario has not sent any aircraft. 
A map of major forest fires burning in B.C.'s Interior. (BC Wildfire Service)

According to Emergency Management BC, more than 830 out-of-province firefighters are in B.C. They include 155 from Alberta, 88 from Saskatchewan, 13 from Manitoba, 45 from Quebec, 45 from New Brunswick, 21 from Nova Scotia, 12 from P.E.I., seven from Newfoundland, 17 from Northwest Territories, 12 from Parks Canada and 54 from Australia. Once the latest crews arrive, Ontario will have more than 350 there.

Kevin Skrepnek, B.C.'s chief fire information officer, told reporters on Wednesday that about 140 wildfires are burning in the province, of which 27 are fires of note and 15 pose threats to communities. Four of the total are new fires.

"We have seen a calm few days," Shrepnek said.

The cost of fighting the fires since April 1 is now greater than $105 million.

3,000 B.C. firefighters trying to contain blazes

About 3,000 B.C. firefighters and support staff are trying to contain the blazes, with the help of 209 aircraft and about 1,000 contractors. Crews are focused on safety and keeping highways open.

More than 45,000 people have been displaced due to the fires, which have burned more than 3,500 square kilometres. Residents of Cache Creek, with a population of about 1,000, returned home Tuesday. 

There is a campfire ban across almost all of B.C.

On Wednesday, B.C. Premier John Horgan extended the state of emergency in the province for two more weeks.

There are 19 forest fires burning in Ontario, mostly in the province's far north. They are being monitored. The hazard in the far north is said to be high, with a drying trend, while the hazard is moderate in central Ontario.