Canada mobilizes federal resources to help British Columbia combat extreme wildfire activity

Sample article from our Government & Public Policy

OTTAWA , August 24, 2023 (press release) –

Wildfire activity throughout the province of British Columbia has returned to an extreme level during the last week. Communities across the province have experienced a very challenging wildfire season, resulting in evacuations, loss of personal property, and damage to critical infrastructure.

On August 19, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, approved a Request for Federal Assistance from the Government of British Columbia to support the province’s efforts to combat the wildfires.

The federal government is providing the following supports:

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard has confirmed support through providing multiple personnel trained in the Incident Command System and will increase capacity in support roles as needed.
  • Transport Canada has confirmed support with high-level aerial surveillance fire mapping through the National Aerial Surveillance Program. It is also providing air travel related flexibilities, including requirements for travel identification, hours of service for the transport of essential goods, and movement of pets, as needed. The Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) restricting flights near the Kelowna airport is still in effect. The department continues to work with air operators, provincial emergency operations staff and airports to accommodate commercial arrivals and departures around aerial firefighting operations, and will provide assistance where required.
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is working closely with government agencies and volunteers to ensure everyone’s safety. The RCMP is actively patrolling the affected communities and have deployed additional resources from Federal, Provincial and Municipal units to support the evacuations and relieve local frontline officers.
  • Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is providing funding for preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery through the Emergency Management Assistance Program (EMAP). This will help enhance capacity to address emergency events including wildfires. ISC is working closely with the Province of British Columbia, First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of British Columbia and the First Nations Health Authority to ensure First Nations are fully supported to respond to emergency events and evacuations. ISC is also keeping close contact with affected First Nations to ensure they are fully supported during emergency events and evacuations now and into the future.
  • Employment and Social Development Canada will support impacted Canadians with enhanced Service Canada delivery, outreach to evacuees, and deployment of mobile units to evacuation centres to assist clients by offering support in submitting applications for benefits, such as employment insurance.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces is making available Vernon Cadet Training Center, (located approximately 50 km north of Kelowna) to support community evacuations, firefighting staging, and operations as well as administrative activities.
  • A 30-member reconnaissance team drawn from 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based out of Shilo Manitoba, is currently in British Columbia in order to collaborate with and provide advice to Emergency Management British Columbia. The CAF is prepared to support with additional capabilities to augment and complement the province’s efforts, should they be required.
  • Public Services and Procurement Canada is coordinating with the province and will support any emerging contracting needs.

The Government of Canada’s Government Operations Centre is working closely with federal and provincial partners to coordinate the federal response to the situation in British Columbia.

Quotes

“British Columbians are grappling with the devastation and distress caused by aggressive wildfires across the province. Thousands have been forced to evacuate and many have sadly lost their homes and personal belongings. The Government of Canada is mobilizing all available federal resources to combat the wildfires and bring this situation under control. To the courageous firefighters, first responders, and Canadian Armed Forces personnel, we thank you for all the work you are doing to protect communities and keep Canadians safe.”

- The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada

“As wildfires threaten communities in British Columbia, the federal government will do whatever it takes to help the province keep people safe. We’ve authorized the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces to assist the province — and we are prepared to provide whatever additional help is necessary. At this critical time, we stand with British Columbians.”

- The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence

“We’re in close contact with Indigenous communities affected by the devastating wildfires, and we’re ready to provide the supports they need in these challenging times. My heart goes out to the people who are worried about their homes and what they will return to. When the time comes, we will be there to support the recovery and rebuild.”

- The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services

“I want to assure the people of British Columbia that the Canadian Coast Guard is ready to support you. We are on hand, with our resources and services, to help the Province of British Columbia, and our thoughts are with you. We are deeply grateful to first responders, firefighters and all those who work hard and risk their lives to contain and extinguish these wildfires.”

- The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Our Government will be there for the people of British Columbia being impacted by the wildfires. We are taking action by supporting wildfire surveillance efforts through Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program. We are also putting in place flexibilities to help facilitate any evacuations that may be necessary by air, and working with airlines to ensure flights remain affordable for those evacuating. We will continue to engage with the Government of British Columbia and wherever it is possible for us to help, we will do so.”

- The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Transport

Quick facts

  • This is the second Request for Federal Assistance from the Province of British Columbia this season. The first request was approved on July 14.

  • B.C. continues to respond to over 375 active fires burning across the province. Wildfires have burned over 1.66 million hectares of land across British Columbia, well-above the seasonal average.

  • The Government of Canada’s Government Operations Centre is responsible for coordinating the Government of Canada's response to emergency events.

  • In Canada, emergencies are managed first at the municipal level and if they need assistance, they request it from their province or territory. If the emergency escalates further, provinces or territories can get help from the federal government.

  • A Request for Federal Assistance is initiated when an emergency event overwhelms or threatens to overwhelm the resources of a province or territory and federal government help is needed to effectively support the impacted region.

  • Should a province or territory make an official Request for Federal Assistance, there is a well-established process in place for managing the request, through the Government Operations Centre, and includes provincial and territorial and interdepartmental consultation and coordination.

  • If provincial and territorial authorities require assistance, they may ask the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) for help. When the CAF responds to natural disasters in Canada, it is known as Operation LENTUS.

  • CAF assistance complements and enhances provincial and local resources with unique capabilities, including military personnel and equipment. The primary objective is to help provincial and local authorities stabilize the situation and to reassure Canadian residents in the affected areas.

  • The Government of Canada’s Government Operations Centre works closely with Public Safety Canada’s regional offices in an emergency. These regional offices, which are located in all provinces and in the North, provide regional input and perspective while supporting the coordination of the federal response to an emergency event. Their networks of provincial and territorial officials, other federal departments and agencies, and diverse communities and stakeholders, are essential to this work.

  • The public is reminded to not fly drones or to boat on lakes near wildfires.

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Dan Rivard
- VP Market Development -

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