Soldiers from Edmonton to aid in B.C. wildfire fight

·2 min read
An aircraft drops fire retardant near the Nk'Mip fire on July 19. As resources on the frontlines became strained, the federal government announced its plans to send soldiers into B.C. earlier this week. (Submitted by Mike Fitzpatrick - image credit)
An aircraft drops fire retardant near the Nk'Mip fire on July 19. As resources on the frontlines became strained, the federal government announced its plans to send soldiers into B.C. earlier this week. (Submitted by Mike Fitzpatrick - image credit)

The Canadian Armed Forces is sending up to 350 soldiers from Edmonton to the B.C. Interior to fight wildfires.

The Alberta-based troops will begin arriving in the Okanagan region this week to provide direct assistance to B.C. Wildfire Services operations, the Canadian Armed Forces said Thursday.

The soldiers, part of an immediate response unit, will work in the Vernon area, around 440 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

They will work alongside firefighters, helping to monitor the fire line, taking part in "mop-up" procedures and removing burning and hazardous material along the fire's edge.

The troops are expected to remain in B.C. until at least Aug. 30.

Additional military aid could be dispatched to the province if needed, the CAF said.

The B.C. government filed an official request for federal assistance on July 19.

Ottawa announced its plans to send soldiers into B.C. earlier this week.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a social media post that the government had approved a request for help.

B.C. declared a state of emergency on July 20. Wildfires have forced hundreds of people from their homes and put thousands more on evacuation alert.

As of Wednesday, nearly 300 wildfires were burning across the province, including more than 100 wildfires concentrated in the Interior.

Resources on the ground have been strained. The B.C. Wildfire Service has said it is being forced to focus on wildfires that threaten lives and safety due to the strain.

Last Thursday, the service warned that it was "unable to commit to all new ignitions" with existing manpower and equipment.

A handful of wildfires are burning in the forests surrounding Vernon. The Regional District of North Okanagan has declared a state of emergency.

The Brenda Creek Wildfire that started last Wednesday grew rapidly over the weekend and has now burned around 500 hectares, triggering a series of evacuation alerts and orders. More than 60 properties have been evacuated due to a wildfire on the east side of Mabel Lake.

Fighting fires in the region has been difficult for emergency crews battling the strong winds pushing the fire across very dry forests.

The weather in the Interior has been challenging for fire crews. There was no rain in the southern half of the province over the weekend, and some areas haven't seen rain for nearly five weeks.

Conditions are expected to stay hot, dry and windy through the week.

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