National Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said on Friday that additional resources were being diverted to a tactical base in Edmonton to help meet the needs of the wildfires in the Western region, including 350 military personnel.
A Hercules aircraft for transporting equipment and personnel, as well as two Chinook helicopters to join an existing helicopter fleet to airlift firefighters and, if necessary, residents of wildfire hotspots also arrived at the base over the past few days, Sajjan said.
More than 1,300 homes in British Columbia face evacuation orders as more than 150 forest fires rage
Sajjan said the military resource base in Edmonton allows for greater flexibility in responding to wildfires in the Western region throughout the summer.
“We knew from experience that air assets were needed,” he said. “The women and men of the Canadian Forces have experience fighting wildfires across the country and will use these lessons to help as needed. “
2021 British Columbia Wildland Fire Map: Location and Size of Fires Burning in the Province
Sajjan was joined on Friday by Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough and Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who have all repeatedly warned that this year’s wildfire season promises to be severe.
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Hundreds of fires are now burning across British Columbia, including 70 that erupted on Thursday alone amid intense thunderstorms in the interior of the province. Thousands of people have been evacuated across the province as numerous fires burn dangerously near communities.
A fire that raged on Wednesday in the village of Lytton, British Columbia, destroyed almost everything in its path. The province’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said on Friday that two people are presumed dead, although the information has yet to be confirmed.
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Blair says investigation into the cause of the Lytton fire is underway
Blair said the investigation into the cause of the fire is “very actively” underway, but stressed that more information is needed from the RCMP and fire investigators.
He said he discussed the possibility that a spark from a train passing through the village started the blaze with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, but could not say whether restrictions on train travel would be. put in place to prevent future fires.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened the Federal Incident Response Group to discuss federal government assistance to British Columbia, as well as to anticipate other extreme weather events expected across the country this summer.
Blair told reporters he and other federal officials were in close contact with their provincial counterparts in British Columbia as the extreme heat set in on the west coast, which created drought conditions that spread. across the province.
He said discussions on the details of what the federal government can provide to help British Columbia are underway, with nothing set in stone yet, but promised Ottawa would be there to help. if needed. He did not say whether a formal request for federal assistance had been received from the BC government.
The Lytton fire came after the village set all-time records for the hottest spot in Canada for three consecutive days between Sunday and Tuesday.
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A heat wave that meteorologists say is caused by a so-called “heat dome” has resulted in scorching temperatures across British Columbia since last weekend. The dome is now heading east towards Alberta and Saskatchewan, which are already experiencing their own record temperatures.
Lapointe said on Friday more than 700 people in British Columbia are believed to have died from the heat over the past week.
While the two deaths in Lytton have yet to be confirmed, the entire village is now displaced and seeking refuge in surrounding communities as the damage is assessed. Further evacuations ordered elsewhere in British Columbia
Qualtrough said Service Canada has set up a helpline for those affected by the wildfires, including those who have lost their jobs or important personal documents.
She also said her ministry stood ready to help affected residents receive EI checks and other mail.
Wilkinson said resources are also being diverted from Parks Canada to help with wildfire response.
Ministers said additional resources will be made available as needed, not only for British Columbia but also for other provinces throughout what is shaping up to be a dry and potentially dangerous summer.
“Canadians can rest assured that there are strong federal, provincial and territorial mechanisms to ensure that we are working together to help keep all Canadians safe,” said Blair.