Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Asks Ontario, Australia for Help in Battling Wildfires across Province

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Asks Ontario, Australia for Help in Battling Wildfires across Province

Article excerpt

B.C. taps Ontario, Australia for fire help


VANCOUVER - All available crews have been committed to fight against British Columbia's burning forests, a situation that has forced officials to triage response to the worst fires and call in reinforcements from as far away as Australia.

On Tuesday, 184 fires were burning across B.C., engaging more than 1,000 personnel and triggering evacuation orders and alerts, as well as air-quality advisories.

Kurtis Isfeld of the BC Wildfire Service said 23 of those fires had broken out Monday and the ministry predicts 30 new wildfires will start every day as dry conditions grow more acute.

"The availability of resources is at a critical level, and any significant increase in fire load will be difficult for us to manage," he said.

"As such, we've begun prioritizing fires based on human life and safety, property, critical values, critical habitat and timber, and before any of those the safety of our responders will come first and foremost."

He said all the service's available crews are engaged around the province, including 622 contractors.

The government had already spent more than $90 million this season fighting the fires, well over the $63 million set aside in the budget.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson said 70 firefighters from Ontario were expected to arrive in B.C. on Tuesday, and the province will be getting help from Australian crews, while firefighters from New Zealand will likely head to Alberta.

Thomson said he didn't have specific numbers of how many firefighters would be coming from Australia and New Zealand.

Smoke from two wildfires near Whistler is contributing to very poor air quality in the town renowned for its outdoor activities.

Environment Canada's air quality health index lists the risk for Whistler at 10, and everyone, especially people with respiratory problems or related concerns, is being warned to stay indoors if possible. …

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