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B.C. might need to ‘dig deep’ into its own resources for fighting wildfires this year

Province has multiple requests in for support already
In Vancouver, Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma, left, looks on as BC Wildfire Service operations director Cliff Chapman speaks over Zoom June 8, 2023 in an update about the province’s wildfire situation. (Lauren Collins)

As crews across Canada have been keeping busy fighting grass and wildfires, B.C. officials say the province might have to “dig deep” into its own resources this year.

All agencies across Canada are busy this year and “there is a real shortage of resources we’re sharing,” BC Wildfire Service operations director Cliff Chapman told reporters during an update on B.C.’s wildfire situation and summer forecast Thursday (June 8).

READ MORE: Officials warn of ‘very challenging’ fire season ahead in B.C.

“Nationally, we tend to leverage resource-sharing agreements with our partnering agencies and when we’re in need we can call on them for help … This could be a year where we really have to dig deep and use the resources we have here in B.C. to address our situation.”

B.C. has requests into Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre for additional support “somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200 staff” for ground fighting, firefighting and incident management teams for planning for the next two to five weeks.

B.C. still has resources available for the next 72 hours, with about 1,000 people currently working on the different fires throughout the province.

Chapman said B.C.’s “best chance of success to continue through whatever this fire season may bring” is to focus on the initial attack.

“When we first see a fire, when we first get a report of a fire, to really attack that fire as aggressively as we can from the air, from the ground and with crew resources.”

He also urged people to be cautious and prepared this year – and to report any smoke you see.

“It’s more important than ever to be responsible with fire use and extremely cautious with any activity that can spark a wildfire … If you see smoke, even if you think it’s been reported – please call it in.”

In B.C., there were 83 active fires as of Thursday afternoon.

READ MORE: Evacuation order issued for Tumbler Ridge due to wildfire

An evacuation order was issued for Tumbler Ridge as the Peavine Creek wildfire has closed Highway 52 East. Discovered Tuesday, the fire has grown to 9,600 hectares.

On Vancouver Island, Highway 4 east of Port Alberni has been closed for days as a wildfire burns out of control at Cameron Bluffs near Angel Rock. The fire was listed at 180 hectares as of Thursday afternoon.

READ MORE: Eight-hour closure planned for Highway 4 detour on June 9

There are also wildfires burning in Ontario and Quebec, blanketing parts of the eastern United States in smoke.

Forests Minister Bruce Ralston added that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden earlier in the day, offering support to help fight the wildfires throughout the country.

Last week, more than 700 international firefighters were on their way to Canada to help.

READ MORE: Nearly 700 more international firefighters coming to Canada to help battle fires

– With files from Angie Mindus


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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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