News / Vancouver

'Much-needed help': Wildfire backup arrives, including hundreds from outside B.C.

As out-of-control wildland blazes engulf more of the province, help arrives — no doubt a welcome contribution to weary front-lines.

A helicopter lands while battling a wildfire burning on the top of a mountain near Ashcroft, B.C., on Monday, July 10, 2017. More than 200 wildfires are burning in the province and an estimated 14,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A helicopter lands while battling a wildfire burning on the top of a mountain near Ashcroft, B.C., on Monday, July 10, 2017. More than 200 wildfires are burning in the province and an estimated 14,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.

Weary firefighters on the front-lines against wildfires across British Columbia — rapidly engulfing more than 30,000 hectares of the province — are about to get a reprieve, or at very least some "much-needed help."

On Monday afternoon, the City of Vancouver announced it deployed six members of its heavy urban search and rescue team, Canada Task Force-1, to join the emergency operations centres in Prince George and Kamloops. Joining them also is Vancouver's emergency planning coordinator.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Wildfire Service announced that the first wave of 310 out-of-province firefighters had arrived the previous day, and would help bolster the 1,600 provincial personnel already involved in the fight.

"Under normal circumstances," the provincial agency said in a press release, "the BC Wildfire Service has sufficient staff, aircraft and equipment available to tackle almost any situation that may arise during the fire season …

"However, the extraordinarily high number of wildfires that were sparked from July 7-8 (over 223 new fires over just two days), their extremely volatile behaviour and their rapid spread prompted the BC Wildfire Service to bring in some much-needed help this week."

The service falls under B.C.'s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, which added that "more is on the way" when it comes to firefighters' backup forces.

If needed, the province also noted that it can also request services from roughly 2,500 private contractors "to pitch in."

The most of the new cohort arriving come from Ontario, which dispatched 147 firefighters, followed by B.C. neighbour Alberta's 92 fire personnel. Saskatchewan sent 37, Parks Canada a dozen, and even distant and small New Brunswick ponied up 22 to help.

"They'll be deployed wherever they're needed in the province," the Wildfire Service explained.

It's also bringing "additional air support" on board, growing the existing 32 planes and 200 contracted helicopters tasked with the fight.

Among the additions are 10 out-of-province firefighting aircraft, seven of them "airtankers" and three planes to coordinate them.

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