| 20 June 2024, Thursday |

Canada to deploy military in British Columbia to tackle fast-spreading fires

Canada is sending the military to tackle fast-spreading wildfires in British Columbia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday, as the western province deals with flames that have led to evacuation orders for more than 35,000 people.

British Columbia declared a state of emergency and imposed a ban on non-essential travel to free up accommodations for evacuees and firefighters, and urged drone operators and others capturing images of the fires to stay clear of rescue workers.

In some cities in British Columbia, the air quality index (AQI), which measures major pollutants including particulate matter produced by fires, was above 350, a “hazardous” level, IQAir, a real-time air quality information platform showed.

At midnight (0400 GMT), Salmon Arm was recording the nation’s worst air quality index, with an AQI reading of 470. Among other cities, Kelowna College and Sicamous both had the AQI at 423.

West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund said he saw some hope after battling “epic” fires for the past four days. He said conditions have improved, helping firefighters to put “boots on the ground” and dump water on flames that threatened the town of 150,000.

“We are finally feeling like we are moving forward rather than moving backwards, and that’s a great feeling,” Brolund told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Trudeau said in a tweet that the federal government will offer support from the Canadian military “to help with evacuations, staging,” and other logistical tasks in response to a request from the British Columbia government.

Forest fires are not uncommon in Canada but the spread of blazes and disruptions underscore the severity of its worst wildfire season yet, which some experts have blamed on climate change.

  • Reuters