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Emergencies minister mobilizes military to help fight B.C. wildfires

The assistance will come from across federal departments and the Canadian Armed Forces

Federal assistance including military resources are being mobilized to help British Columbia’s fight against hundreds of wildfires, Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair announced Friday (July 14)

Blair said in a tweet he has approved a request for federal assistance to aid firefighters and emergency management personnel who are “working tirelessly” in B.C.

The assistance will come from across federal departments and the Canadian Armed Forces, Blair said.

Bowinn Ma, B.C.’s minister of emergency management and climate readiness, said in a statement she is grateful to the federal government for its support.

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“We look forward to welcoming federal resources in B.C. to assist with wildfire response efforts as soon as possible,” she said. “They will work alongside the approximate 2,000 BC Wildfire Service personnel across our province, in addition to further international resources arriving this weekend.

“We will continue to use every tool necessary to keep people and communities safe.”

Ma said Thursday she had made the request, while Blair said earlier that he expected B.C. to seek “fairly substantive” assistance.

Blair said at the time that federal help could include military assistance for airlift evacuations from remote locations, as well as troops trained as firefighters who can “mop up” to keep blazes from reigniting.

The BC Wildfire Service said in a statement Friday that it has a “long history of working in partnership with the federal government during particularly challenging wildfire seasons.”

“We continue to work closely with the federal government and are grateful for the announcement that assistance has been mobilized,” the statement said.

The service is reporting the total number of active fires in the province has topped 360, while the number of threatening or potentially damaging blazes has jumped to 17.

Blair’s announcement came as the Central Coast Regional District issued an evacuation order covering 20 kilometres along the Dean River Valley, about 50 kilometres north of Bella Coola.

The district initially issued an alert Wednesday, but upgraded that to an order Friday. The order affects the area along the Dean River Valley east from Kimsquit Bay, extending to approximately 36 kilometres along the Dean River Valley, including two commercial lodges.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Dean River fire was caused by lightning and is about three square kilometres in size.

It joins at least 12 other evacuation orders or alerts that have been issued since Tuesday in the province.

The Canadian Press

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