Canadian PM calls emergency meeting to tackle wildfires in British Columbia

The British Columbia Wildfire Service has listed 99 active fires, with as many as 78 reported within the last two days. Among the worst hit areas is the hamlet of Lytton and its vicinity.
Trees burn along a street during a wildfire in Lytton, British Columbia, Canada . (REUTERS)
Trees burn along a street during a wildfire in Lytton, British Columbia, Canada . (REUTERS)
Published on Jul 02, 2021 11:06 AM IST
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By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Amit Chanda

Days of a historic heatwave in the Canadian province of British Columbia have led to a spate of devastating wildfires and as the crisis mounts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called an emergency meeting on Friday in this regard.

The British Columbia Wildfire Service has listed 99 active fires, with as many as 78 reported within the last two days. More than half of those were caused by lightning strikes that ignited trees and woods that were left dry due to the historic temperatures recorded in the province over the past week.

Trudeau will chair a meeting of the Incident Response Group, a crisis and emergency management committee, on Friday “to discuss the extreme weather-related conditions in British Columbia and the wildfire situation throughout Western Canada”, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Trudeau also spoke to British Columbia’s premier (equivalent of a chief minister) John Horgan on Thursday and assured him of the federal government’s support to those affected by the fires.

The PM also informed him that defence minister Harjit Sajjan and public safety and emergency preparedness minister Bill Blair were “working with provincial ministers to ensure that all federal resources necessary are available to British Columbia”.

“I cannot stress enough how extreme the fire risk is at this moment in every part of British Columbia,” Horgan said during the course of a media briefing. The fires raging in the province include nine of note which “are highly visible or which pose a potential threat to public safety,” according to the British Columbia Wildfire Service.

Among the worst hit areas is the hamlet of Lytton and its vicinity. Over Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Lytton recorded new highs in temperatures in Canadian history, peaking at 49.6 degrees Celsius.

It was ordered evacuated on Wednesday, with nearly 1,000 inhabitants in the area having to move to safety as local officials said nearly 90% of Lytton being decimated by a wildfire.

Trudeau described the situation there as “catastrophic”. The British Columbia Wildfire Service classified it as “out of control” and estimated it was 6,400 hectares in size.

Evacuation orders are in place across several communities in the wildfire-hit regions and over 500sq km of area has been impacted.

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Saturday, October 23, 2021