Wildfire situation doesn't warrant state of emergency yet, premier says

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A province-wide state of emergency isn't currently necessary to help battle the hundreds of wildfires burning across British Columbia, officials said Tuesday.

Premier John Horgan said the government is doing everything it can to assist wildfire personnel, and that declaring another state of emergency – less than a week after lifting the record-breaking state of emergency prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic – won't change the province's situation.

"We're confident that every resources that can be mustered is being mustered. A state of emergency's not required to do that," Horgan during a news conference from the Kamloops fire centre. 

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth noted the government is already receiving federal assistance, with nearly 2,700 people working to protect communities from the fires that have already forced thousands of residents to flee their homes.

Just as the last state of emergency was declared on the advice of B.C. health officials, a fire-related state of emergency would only be implemented at the behest of firefighting personnel, Farnworth added.

"It's not a political decision," he said. "It's done on the advice of the men and women of the B.C. Wildfire Service."

Horgan, Farnworth and Forests Minister Katrine Conroy spent Tuesday flying over some of the wildfire hotspots in the province, as well as the devastated community of Lytton, which was levelled by a fast-moving fire last week.

The officials also spoke with firefighters from Lytton, who have continued to help battle other wildfires in the province after losing their homes.

"It just was inspiring. Despite their personal loss, they remained stoic and focussed on the task at hand," said Horgan, who called it a "deeply moving day."

The premier also addressed the lack of announced funding to support those displaced by wildfires. During the historic 2017 wildfire season, the B.C. government pledged $100 million in funding for evacuees, including $600 for those who registered with the Canadian Red Cross.

Horgan assured displaced residents that the government is "going to be working with all providers to make sure that the resources are there."

"I want to remind people it's the first week in July and we have a long summer ahead of us. We're not under any illusion that that crisis has passed," he added.