B.C. RCMP officers have been deployed to wildfire zones to help with evacuations and to secure evacuated areas.
In a release Friday (Aug. 18), B.C. RCMP said it’s deploying the additional resources due to the various encroaching and fast-moving wildfires throughout the province and to help the increasing number of people being evacuated.
“I want to reassure those who have been evacuated that the BC RCMP will do everything in our power to keep your homes and properties secure,” said Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, commanding officer of the B.C. RCMP.
McDonald said that while resources are being deployed throughout the province, policing levels will continue “without interruption.”
As of Saturday, Aug. 19 at 2 p.m., roughly 35,000 people are displaced by evacuation orders and 30,000 are under alert, but Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma cautioned that it is an ever-changing number in a dynamic situation.
Since April, RCMP officers have been working in various areas of the province dealing with natural disasters. Over the last couple of days those resources – which include personnel, specialized services and equipment – have been moved into southern B.C., along with resources from the federal, provincial and local municipal levels.
“Our utmost priority is the safety and well-being of our communities,” said Cpl. James Grandy, spokesperson for the Southeast District RCMP.
“Additionally, for the safety of wildfire and emergency personnel working in the area, we strongly caution against the use of non-governmental drones. Unauthorized drone operations in the area are dangerous and unlawful”.
RCMP officers have been doing door-to-door evacuations, as well as securing evacuation routes and “frequent static and roving patrols in evacuated areas to secure properties from criminal activity.”
B.C. RCMP say officers will only leave an evacuated area in the event continued wildfire activity threatens officer safety, but only to pull back to re-establish a new secure zone. Once it’s safe to do so, officers will return to maintain security.
Mounties are asking residents who are subject evacuation orders to leave the area safely and quick through established evacuation routes.
BC Wildfire Services operations director Cliff Chapman said now is not the time to ignore evacuation orders or alerts.
Chapman said there were people not adhering to evacuation orders Thursday night, and there were a couple of instances where wildfire service staff and RCMP had to go back into evacuation zones to get people out.
“That puts people’s lives at risk,” said Chapman, adding it also takes a significant toll on staff trying to get people out of the way of fires moving “at rates we rarely see in British Columbia.”