Bob Grant photo.

Canadian Forces remain ‘last resort’ for B.C. wildfire response: province

Three Canadian Forces Griffin helicopters are arriving in B.C. Sunday

UPDATE: July 10

The Canadian Forces are confirming they are moving the three Griffin helicopters from Kelowna to a base in Kamloops to help fight the wildfires raging across B.C.

Several fixed aircrafts and rotary aircrafts will be based out of Comox and also assisting Wildfire Management in attacking the more than 200 blazes.

—————

The Canadian Forces are en route to Kelowna to help fight the estimated 230 wildfires burning across B.C.

However, the BC Wildfire Service said Sunday that the military isn’t likely to help with direct, on-the-ground firefighting. Instead, the personnel will provide logistical support.

“We have Canadian Forces assets that are leaning forward and pre-position to help with supporting provincial efforts,” said chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek. “There should be three Griffin helicopters into Kelowna today and there should be some larger fixed-wing aircraft in the next few days.”

Skrepnek said that the province will look to firefighting support from Alberta and Ontario, as well as from other provinces, before asking the Canadian Forces to help with firefighting operations.

“What we’re bringing in are trained wildfire crews from other provinces; both on-the-ground fire crews and specialist positions,” said Skrepnek. “We are also reaching out to leverage the contract firefighting community here in B.C – basically forest industry companies that have their own trained crews.”

In the meantime, more than 1,000 firefighters are currently battling the wildfires that have prompted the evacuation of 7,000 British Columbians in the Interior. The 2017 season has cost the province $46 million as of July 7, although Skrepnek said that is expected to grow. Annually, the province sets aside $63 million for wildfire response but often pulls from a contingency fund to supplement its response. In 2016, B.C. spent $122.9 million.

“[There are] 1,800 evacuees registered in Williams Lake that are being directed to Prince George and about 1,200 people registered at 100 Mile House,” said Emergency Management BC executive director Chris Duffy. “But those numbers are very fluid.”

Wildfires of note are burning in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Ashcroft, Princeton, Quesnel and Little Fort. Officials say that no one is unaccounted for at this time.

WATCH: B.C. Wildfires by the numbers

While efforts are underway to save livestock in affected areas, Skrepnek said that there are no plans to help wildlife escape the fire.

Wildfire service officials estimate just under 24,000 hecatres has already burned across the province. Wildfire Services said it’s trying to manage fatigue for their fire crews in what could be a “pretty protracted season.”

Skrepnek noted that while this isn’t a particularly early start to the fire season, two to three weeks of hot and dry conditions have contributed to the “incredibly aggressive fire behaviour” seen around the province this weekend.

RELATED: Wildlife may survive these wildfires, if they’re fast

“Friday was really the tipping point when we had a fairly significant weather system move through… that brought a fairly significant amount of dry lightening,” said Skrepnek. “That is certainly what touched off the vast majority of new fires that we are getting.”

He said that while windy conditions will help clear heavy smoke in B.C.’s interior, they will also contribute to the spread of fires.

“The smoke was a bit of a double-edged sword,” he said. “It does cause a lot of visibility issues but it also has a bit of a calming effect. If it settles in and around the fires, it traps moisture closer to the ground… which tends to minimize fire behaviour.”

A “province-wide rain event” is the best case scenario, but Skrepnek said it is “certainly not looking optimistic.”

The provincial government announced $100 million in funding to the Canadian Red Cross Sunday to help cities rebuild.

RELATED: How to help those devastated by B.C. wildfires


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Suspect of interest ID’d after man shot near Surrey school

Police don’t know what motive was in shooting near Surrey-Delta border

Santa pics help Langley charity

The jolly old elf is aiding a scholarship and a sponsored Christmas Bureau family.

Double graves coming to Surrey civic cemeteries for the first time

Surrey council approves cemetery bylaw changes, which will also allow upright headstones

Cloverdale’s Christmas shopping kicks off with Ladies’ Night Out next week

Check out Cloverdale businesses, vendors, and more Thursday, Nov. 30

VIDEO: MP details what gang and housing announcements mean for Surrey

Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai speaks about recent funding commitments

South Surrey traffic busy on Black Friday

Traffic slow across region as shoppers search for deals

Kelowna Rockets slip past Vancouver Giants: ‘When you don’t execute, there’s got to be changes’

Giants coach frustrated after his team’s 3-2 loss at Langley Events Centre

Last days for notorious homeless camp in Chilliwack River Valley

One local sports fisher frustrated by slow response from police and all levels of government

Fuel spill follows train derailment near Hell’s Gate

Empty grain train jumped the track after a landslide

BC Ferries vehicle traffic last summer was best ever

CEO says positive results reduce future pressure on fares

Dead rats on doorstep greets Summerland mayor

Two rodents have been delivered to Peter Waterman’s doorstep

False killer whale ‘Chester’ dies at Vancouver Aquarium

He was found stranded near Tofino in July 2014 and only had a 10 per cent chance of making it at the time

Cougar confronts man in Clearwater

Clearwater resident Barry Joneson had a close encounter of the cougar kind

Most Read