State of emergency extended
The provincial state of emergency that was initially issued on July 7 following the outbreak of the Elephant Hill wildfire has been formally extended again, through the end of the day on August 18, 2017.
The state of emergency declaration will continue to apply to the whole province, and ensures that federal, provincial, and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated response to the wildfire situation. Ongoing, direct financial support to evacuees will continue, with $600 per-household funding renewed every 14 days until evacuees return home.
It will also continue to ensure public safety, giving agencies such as Emergency Management BC, the fire commissioner, the Ministry of Forests, and the RCMP the authority to take every action necessary to fight the wildfires and protect residents and their communities.
Restrictions on off-road vehicles
As of noon on Friday, August 4, the operation of any off-road vehicle for recreational purposes on Crown land has been prohibited throughout the Kamloops, Cariboo, and Southeast Fire Centres. In addition, all on-highway vehicles must remain on clearly-defined road surfaces.
This step is being taken to help prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public safety. The operation of any off-road vehicle in these regions during the current wildfire situation creates a potential wildfire risk. While jeeps, trucks, and other on-highway vehicles are permitted on designated roads, they are not allowed off-road.
The prohibition of off-road and on-highway vehicles does not apply to private land or national parks. It also does not apply to emergency responders, or to agriculture or commercial/industrial users who operate vehicles for farming, emergency response, or business purposes.
B.C. government will replace livestock fencing
The B.C. government has committed $6.2 million to support the replacement of livestock fencing and Crown range infrastructure that has been destroyed by wildfires.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has reached an agreement — in partnership with the BC Cattlemen’s Association — to support the rebuilding of livestock fencing adjacent to provincial highways. The ministry will provide $2.2 million in funding for the repair and replacement of livestock fences adjacent to provincial highways that were destroyed by the wildfires. This is in addition to $2 million for the existing 2017–18 Provincial Livestock Fencing Program.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, and National Resources Operations and Rural Development will contribute $4 million toward the repair and replacement of Crown range infrastructure. This includes fences that are not along highways, cattle-handling and water facilities, cabins, and other range infrastructure destroyed due to fire.
Help prevent wildfires
The B.C. Day long weekend is behind us, but there are still several weeks of summer left, and many people will be heading into the back country on vacation. August is traditionally the most active part of the wildfire season, and with the number of fires currently burning, elevated fire danger ratings, and extremely dry conditions, the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) is encouraging people to remain vigilant regarding potential fire dangers.
Campfires and open fires are banned throughout most of the province, but BCWS continues to receive reports of illegal campfires. The current open-fire prohibitions do not apply to CSA-rated or ULC-rated cooking stoves that use gas, propane, or briquettes, or to a portable campfire apparatus that uses briquettes or liquid or gaseous fuel, as long as the height of the flame is less than 15 centimetres.
Anyone found in contravention of an open-burning prohibition may be issued a violation ticket for $1,150, may be required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, may be fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.
The BCWS also continues to receive reports of improperly discarded cigarettes. Smokers must dispose of cigarette butts and other smoking material responsibly, making sure that these materials are completely extinguished. Smokers who drop lit or smouldering cigarettes or other items could face a $575 fine.
Be aware of the status of parks and highways, to make your travel plans go smoothly. While most provincial parks remain open for recreational and camping activities, BC Parks—in conjunction with the BCWS—has closed numerous parks to protect public safety, given the serious nature of the current wildfire situation. To see a park’s current status, go to www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks.
Highways can close due to fire conditions, sometimes at very short notice. Motorists are encouraged to check www.drivebc.ca for current highway conditions, and to allow for plenty of extra time in case of road closures or other delays.
B.C. liquor store donations
Customers at B.C. liquor stores around the province have donated more than $340,000 to the Red Cross in support of British Columbians affected by the wildfires.
B.C. liquor stores activated their partnership with the Red Cross on July 10, to help provide much-needed financial support for those impacted by wildfires. More can still be done, with many communities still under Evacuation Alert or Order.
Customers are encouraged to continue their kind-heartedness by donating—in increments of $2, $5, or multiples thereof—at the till. All funds raised go directly to the Red Cross and help provide evacuees with shelter, food, and water.
Red Cross seeking volunteers
The Red Cross is recruiting community volunteers, as their teams become more spread out with more communities affected by the wildfires. Anyone able to volunteer his or her time—particularly in Kamloops, Williams Lake, or Prince George—should visit the Red Cross website (www.redcross.ca) and fill out the wildfire volunteer application.