This photo provided by the Unified Fire Authority shows a Utah fire crew member on the scene working to protect the town of Butte Falls in southern Oregon on Sunday, Sept. 13. 2020. This year’s fires have taxed the human, mechanical and financial resources of the nation’s wildfire fighting forces to a degree that few past blazes did. And half of the fire season is yet to come. Heat, drought, and a strategic decision to attack the flames early combined with other factors to put a historically heavy burden on fire teams. (Matthew McFarland/Unified Fire Authority via AP)

This photo provided by the Unified Fire Authority shows a Utah fire crew member on the scene working to protect the town of Butte Falls in southern Oregon on Sunday, Sept. 13. 2020. This year’s fires have taxed the human, mechanical and financial resources of the nation’s wildfire fighting forces to a degree that few past blazes did. And half of the fire season is yet to come. Heat, drought, and a strategic decision to attack the flames early combined with other factors to put a historically heavy burden on fire teams. (Matthew McFarland/Unified Fire Authority via AP)

B.C., Alberta sending nearly 300 fire personnel by Friday to help battle wildfires in Oregon

Some 230 firefighters, most from British Columbia but including a number from Alberta, will be deployed Friday

Canada is sending nearly 300 firefighters and technical specialists to help beat back the flames ravaging Oregon, one of three states where wildfires are razing buildings, claiming lives and chasing residents from their homes along the U.S. West Coast.

Some 230 firefighters, most from British Columbia but including a number from Alberta, will be deployed on Friday, said Edwin Gillis, fire centre manager with the Winnipeg-based Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

They will be joining between 40 to 50 “overhead personnel” ⏤ supervisors, specialists and technical experts ⏤ from Ontario, Manitoba, B.C. and Alberta who are leaving on Thursday, Gillis said.

No other added resources are currently planned, but there may be other deployments depending on any specific arrangements that exist between states and the provinces, he added.

“The request received from the U.S. National Interagency Co-ordination Center was for assistance on federal land in northern California and Oregon,” Gillis said.

“Some provinces in the West have border agreements with neighbouring states. We have no details as of yet of what is being sent as part of those agreements.”

Alberta Wildfire tweeted Tuesday that 45 crew members would be dispatched to Oregon this week, but it wasn’t clear whether they were part of the national contingent.

The 60 firefighters and three supervisors who arrived in California two weeks ago to help battle the North Complex cluster of fires have been sent home to Quebec, but only a single crew of 20 will relieve them, U.S. Forest Service officials say.

Instead, the focus has shifted one state north to Oregon, where gusting winds and low humidity Wednesday urged on blazes that have so far killed at least eight people, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and scorched more than 4,000 square kilometres.

Smoke from what officials and political leaders say is the worst wildfire season in recent memory blankets the continent, reaching as far away as Washington, D.C., and fouling air quality across southern Canada as it drifts east towards Europe.

The crisis is also taxing available resources at a time when the region’s fire season is only half over and the COVID-19 pandemic has exerted unprecedented pressure on governments, agencies and families. Existing interstate and international agreements for sharing fire suppression resources are reportedly maxed out.

READ MORE: Air quality improves slightly in B.C. from U.S. wildfires

The crisis has also reached the presidential campaign trail: Democratic nominee Joe Biden is blaming climate change and accusing Donald Trump of ignoring the threat, while the president prefers to accuse states of failing to properly manage their forests.

Climate change was also resonating Wednesday on the other side of the country, where the slow-moving hurricane Sally made landfall in Alabama, battering the coastline with torrential rains, damaging winds and a devastating storm surge.

“The impacts of climate change are on the doorsteps everywhere, no matter where you live in the United States,” said Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director in Washington.

That, Pierce said, is turning the environment ⏤ long an issue that was forced to take a back seat to more pressing pocketbook concerns ⏤ into an economic imperative that neither political leaders nor voters can afford to ignore.

“You are seeing historic and destructive wildfires, intense and frequent hurricanes in the Gulf, flooding in the Midwest, drought impacting farmers ⏤ there is no area of the country that isn’t seeing some impact from a changing climate.”

Biden seized the chance this week to take the climate-crisis fight to Trump, calling him a “climate arsonist” whose re-election would only result in worsening floods, fires and droughts across the country.

Biden has promised to spend an eye-bulging $2 trillion over the next four years on clean energy projects and efforts to stop power plants from producing planet-warming carbon emissions.

By contrast, in a briefing Monday with state officials in California, the president shrugged off efforts to convince him of the science behind climate change, saying, “I don’t think science knows, actually.”

Kamala Harris, Biden’s vice-presidential running mate, toured what she described as the “utterly predictable” aftermath of the California fires on Tuesday in her first visit to her home state since the crisis began.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Harris said, standing alongside Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“It is incumbent upon us, in terms of the leadership of our nation, to take seriously the extreme changes in our climate, and to do what we can to mitigate against the damage.”

Newsom has for months been framing the situation in California, which recorded record-setting 54 C temperatures last month, as an early warning for the rest of the country and the world.

“It’s snowing ashes,” he said. “The hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier. If you don’t believe in climate change, come to California.”

⏤ With files from The Associated Press

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

British ColumbiafirefightersOREGONWildfires

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison is comfortable waiting his turn to be vaccinated for COVID-19, as per the B.C. government’s updated vaccination timeline released on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (File photo)
Province’s vaccine timeline a shot of hope for Salmon Arm mayor

Mayor Alan Harrison sees majority of residents taking precautions against COVID-19

Adams Lake Kukpi7 (Chief) Cliff Arnouse (pictured), Neskonlith Kukpi7 Judy Wilson and Little Shuswap Lake Kukpi7 Oliver Arnouse released a joint notice regarding confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their respective communities. (File photo)
Secwepemc First Nation bands responding to COVID-19 cases in their communities

Adams Lake, Neskonlith and Little Shuswap Lake band chiefs release joint notice

The CSRD will be hosting online budget consultations and their board meetings will also be streamed online for the foreseeable future. (CSRD Image)
Columbia Shuswap Regional District budget and board meetings will be held online

A first draft of the budget is available on the regional district’s website

(Pixabay photo)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines of the week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Administrative headquarters for the Regional District of Central Okanagan in Kelowna. (File photo)
Tempers fly over a pricey picnic shelter in the North Westside

Lack of detail on $121,000 shelter expenditure further incites self-govenance wishes

Big White Village on Dec. 16. (Big White photo)
11 more COVID-19 cases linked to Big White cluster

Interior Health provided an update on the cluster on Friday

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘It’s incredibly upsetting’: Kelowna health care worker demands WestJet ticket refund

Kelowna woman has been waiting almost a year for a refund on her Kelowna to Edmonton flight

After a Vernon resident tried to domesticate a pair of gopher snakes, BC Conservation Service reminded that it is against the law to keep wild animals in one’s possession. (Yuval Levy/Unsplash)
Wild gopher snakes aren’t pets: Vernon conservation officer

After resident kept two gopher snakes in his home, conservation reminds it’s illegal to domesticate wildlife

Most Read