British Columbia Premier David Eby says his government's decision to declare a provincial state of emergency allows authorities to rapidly access tools and implement measures to deal with the evolving wildfire situation.
B.C. is no stranger to states of emergency, as they were introduced in the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons and during the COVID-19 pandemic when restrictions on gatherings took effect.
A state of emergency under B.C.'s Emergency Program Act allows the province to enact emergency orders, including restricting travel to specific areas.
Under the act, the government can implement procedures it considers necessary to prevent, respond to and alleviate the effects of an emergency or disaster.
Eby said late Friday that B.C. is facing the worst wildfire season in its history and the deteriorating situation means the province needs to respond to challenging days ahead.
B.C.'s wildfires have resulted in more than 15,000 people being told to evacuate their properties and more than 20,000 placed on evacuation alert.
Speaking on Friday at the briefing where Eby made the declaration, Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said it would allow authorities to compel co-operation from "unwilling" partners in the wildfire fight and force people to stay away from fire zones.
But Ma said co-operation in the fire battle has so far been excellent.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2023.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press