O'Toole pushes for more military aid to battle B.C. wildfires

·3 min read
A helicopter carrying a water bucket flies past the Lytton Creek wildfire burning in the mountains near Lytton, B.C., on Sunday. The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP all touched on the wildfires during day four of the campaign. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A helicopter carrying a water bucket flies past the Lytton Creek wildfire burning in the mountains near Lytton, B.C., on Sunday. The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP all touched on the wildfires during day four of the campaign. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has joined a chorus of mayors and officials in British Columbia calling for more federal aid as wildfires continue to devastate parts of the province.

Despite some rain and cooler temperatures in the forecast, thousands of properties are still under an evacuation order and residents remain on alert in B.C.

The B.C. government has extended the provincial state of emergency until the end of August to better assist wildfire evacuees. The White Rock Lake fire, which already has destroyed dozens of homes, is estimated to be about 782 square kilometres in size.

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole sent Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau a letter urging him to send more soldiers to the province to help out, and chiding him for triggering an election during the emergency.

"Last Sunday, you put your own political interests ahead of the people of British Columbia who are dealing with the damage and devastation of one of the worst wildfire seasons in recent memory," he wrote in the letter, which was made public.

"With each passing day, people across the province are faced with the fear and anxiety that comes with impending evacuation alerts and the subsequent knowledge that they may not have a home to return to."

The letter echoed calls from some mayors and other officials throughout the province for more help.

In mid-July, the federal government announced up to 350 Canadian Forces personnel would be deployed to B.C. to help.

But Merritt Mayor Linda Brown, whose city is on evacuation alert after the July Mountain and Brook Creek fires merged, told CBC News it's not enough.

"We don't seem to be having any federal help. We've got some firefighters around the province from elsewhere, but there's not enough. They're burning out. We need the military," she said.

"We need help and we need massive amounts of it."

Trudeau promises to train more firefighters

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was campaigning in British Columbia today, said the election came at the wrong time for thousands in the province.

"People are concerned about the crisis in B.C. with the forest fires. A lot of communities are saying we're worried about saving our homes. We can't even think about an election right now.," he said.

"There is a lot of difficulty going on and it was the wrong decision, but now people have a choice."

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B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Monday he has been in contact with his federal counterpart to discuss getting additional assistance.

During a stop in Vancouver, Trudeau said he'd spend $500 million ahead of the next fire season to train 1,000 new community-based firefighters and fund new equipment — like water bombers and helicopters — to fight climate change-related events.

"This fire season has already been one of the worst on record. It's clear we need more people and resources to fight these wildfires and keep communities safe," he said.

"We know communities could have used more hands this year. So when next year comes around, this training will mean teams are complete and ready."

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