BC on high alert with increased fire activity, Over 1,000 firefighters are deployed throughout the province

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bc fire3Victoria: With a significant number of wildfires burning throughout B.C., the Province is cautioning all British Columbians to be diligent with fire safety and to report all wildfires to authorities.

Today, a province wide campfire ban has been extended to the “Fog Zone” on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Emergency Social Services (ESS) support is now being provided for approximately 7 people on the Sunshine Coast.
A Wildfire Smoke Advisory has been issued for the Sea to Sky Corridor, including Whistler and Pemberton. The fire east of Lake Kookanusa is now contained and all Evacuation Alerts issued by the Regional District of East Kootenay for areas around this wildfire have now been lifted.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton visited the front lines of the wildfire near Port Hardy and saw firsthand how residents and businesses in the community are working together.
Seventy personnel, two amphibious skimming aircraft, one birddog aircraft and an air attack officer from Ontario arrived in B.C. yesterday. More resources, including some from Australia, are expected to arrive next week and more have been requested.

There were 31 new fires in B.C. yesterday and the Province is cautioning all British Columbians to be diligent with fire safety and report all wildfires to authorities. As of noon today, there were 189 active fires throughout the province (of this, 18 are active fires of note), with five states of local emergency due to wildfire and eight evacuation alerts/orders currently in effect.

As of July 8, 2015, over 40 properties in the province were on Evacuation Order with approximately 500 homes on Evacuation Alert. These numbers will fluctuate as orders and alerts are put into place and/or rescinded.
Evacuation Orders currently exist in these areas:

• Boulder Creek Wildfire, northwest of Pemberton Meadows, affecting three commercial properties and two recreational cabins

• Alberni Clayoquot Regional District, affecting 21 seasonal homes due to Dog Mountain fire

• Sechelt Mine fire, issued for Carlson Point, affecting 21 waterfront properties

Evacuation Alerts exist in these areas:
• Tsulquate Creek Fire, northwest of Port Hardy, affecting 100 homes
• Sitkum Creek Fire, north of Kootenay Lake, affecting 350 homes
• Two alerts for the Harrogate area, north of Highway 95, between Harrogate and Brisco, affecting 50 homes in total
• Petitot River fire, northeast of Fort Nelson, affecting an oil and gas camp.
States of local emergency for wildfires exist in the following areas:
• Northern Rockies Regional Municipality
• Regional District of East Kootenay
• Squamish-Lillooet Regional District
• Sunshine Coast Regional District
• Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District

For all current Evacuation Alerts and Orders in B.C., see: www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca

The BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) has responded to 919 wildfires so far this season.

Over 1,000 of B.C.’s firefighters are fully deployed throughout the province, and over 600 contract firefighters are helping to fight fires.

The 63 sustained action firefighters and seven other specialized personnel from Ontario have arrived and are now deployed throughout the Coastal Fire Centre and Southeast Fire Centre.

In addition, two amphibious skimming aircraft, one birddog aircraft and an air attack officer from Ontario.

These requests for assistance were made through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, which co-ordinates the mutual sharing of firefighting resources between B.C. and other Canadian jurisdictions. Costs associated with these requests will be covered by B.C. under the Mutual Aid Resources Sharing Agreement, which allows for the movement of firefighting resources throughout Canada.

Penalties for open burning:

Failure to abide by the Wildfire Act, including open burning restrictions, can result in a $345 fine, an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, a fine of up to $100,000 and/or one year in jail.
Wildfire smoke advisories and air quality status:

The Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with regional health authorities, has issued air quality advisories in several areas of the province – including the Lower Mainland, Sea-to-Sky Corridor, south and east Vancouver Island, parts of the Interior and the Fort St. John area.

The advisories are a result of high concentrations of fine particulate matter due to smoke from wildfires in B.C. The air quality has improved in most parts of the province overnight, though levels continue to be elevated in the Whistler area. The advisories are expected to remain in place until weather conditions change.

New Wildfire Smoke Advisories have been issued for these areas:
• Sea to Sky Corridor, including Whistler and Pemberton.
• Sunshine Coast and surrounding areas affecting Powell River to Gibsons/Langdale.
• East and South Coast of Vancouver Island from Campbell River to Victoria, and including the interior community of Port Alberni.
• A Smoky Skies Advisory was issued for the Okanagan, Similkameen and Boundary areas.
• A Smoky Skies Advisory was issued for the Thompson, Fraser Canyon, Nicola, and Shuswap areas.

If you see or smell smoke in the air, you’re advised to avoid strenuous outdoor activities, especially if you have chronic underlying medical conditions. Staying indoors and in air conditioned spaces helps to reduce fine particulate exposure. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have heart disease or underlying respiratory conditions – like asthma or other lung diseases, such as COPD. Anyone experiencing difficulty breathing or wheezing is advised to take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke and see a physician if necessary.
For information on current air quality readings in B.C. please visit: www.bcairquality.ca

Support for British Columbians impacted by wildfires:

Including the seven people added today, ESS has now been provided for nearly 300 people in B.C. The majority of these were as a result of previous wildfires east of Kelowna and in Port Hardy. These other people have now all returned home.

ESS is temporary public aid that provides up to 72 hours of essentials like mass lodging and food service, as well as emergency supplies and necessities.

Report all wildfires:
Human-caused wildfires are preventable and the public is B.C.’s first line of defence against wildfires. Please be diligent when in the backcountry, and report all wildfires to 1 800 663-5555 or *5555 on your mobile phone.
Since April 1, 2015, B.C. has reported 918 fires, more than double the 424 wildfires reported in the same time period in 2014. Failure to report a fire can result in a fine of up to $173. Anyone who causes damage to Crown forest or grass land through arson or recklessness can be fined up to $1 million or spend up to three years in prison. If a contravention of the Wildfire Act causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.