UBCIC president joins growing calls for a state of emergency over raging B.C. wildfires
The president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is calling on the provincial government to declare a state of emergency due to the raging wildfires threatening communities.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says First Nations are not receiving the proper resources they need.
"They’re getting a lot of grandiose statements of solidarity from the prime minister and the premier, but that's no replacement for firetrucks and fire equipment," Phillip said
There are currently five First Nations or Indian Bands who are under evacuation alerts or orders.
“In many ways they’re ill-equipped, under-resourced and lack the capacity to safeguard their own communities from these raging wildfires,” Phillip said.
In a statement to CTV News, Emergency Management BC said it's working with the BC Wildfire Service and other agencies "in close collaboration to provide First Nations the support they need during these difficult times.”
Emergency officials also insist a state of emergency is not necessary.
“The province is currently deploying all available resources to respond to wildfires across B.C., and that can be done without a provincial state of emergency," the statement reads.
“I completely reject that argument that essentially the status quo is adequate,” said Phillip.
The Skeetchestn First Nation is currently under an evacuation alert as four different fires burn nearby, including the Tremont Lake wildfire that has grown to 5,000 hectares southeast of Ashcroft.
Skeetchestn Chief Darrel Draney is calling for a more collaborative approach to fighting the fires.
"I think some of the things that need to get done is working closely with the ranchers and the loggers and First Nations to gather their knowledge and work hand in hand on these fires,” said Draney.
The Skeetchestn lost nearly 40 per cent of their traditional territories in the 2017 wildfire at Elephant Hill Provincial Park.
"We haven't healed from the Elephant Hill fire and not even healed from COVID yet," Draney said.
According to the BC Wildfire Service, there are currently 294 wildfires burning across the province.