'Tremendously frustrated': Province silent on TNRD request for state of emergency due to wildfires | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Tremendously frustrated': Province silent on TNRD request for state of emergency due to wildfires

The Thompson Nicola Regional District separately requested the provincial government both declare a state of emergency and place a ban on backcountry travel where there is a high risk of wildfire.
July 19, 2021 - 5:29 PM

The provincial government has not responded to the Thompson Nicola Regional District since the board unanimously decided to ask for a provincial state of emergency.

Board chair Ken Gillis says he is "tremendously frustrated," as he perceives the premier is making the issue political.

"It's not a political issue. Peoples' lives and private property are at stake, and it's time for (Premier John Horgan) to step up to the plate," Gillis said.

As hundreds of people are evacuated from their homes and lodging fills up, he says the provincial government is failing in their responsibility to serve the people in the Thompson Nicola region.

Gillis signed another evacuation order this afternoon, July 19, adding 28 properties near Westwold to the already 13 ordered to evacuate from the White Rock Lake wildfire.

Among the benefits that come with declaring a state of emergency is it eases the process to seek disaster relief assistance and allows fire departments to cross jurisdictional boundaries when they deem it necessary to attend a fire, he said.

"And the intangible benefit is it shows the provincial government is taking this seriously," Gillis said.

There is, however, support from both out-of-province firefighters and the Canadian military that have arrived to assist the B.C. Wildfire Service.

But Gillis' office has not received a response from the province on either the state of emergency call or a request to ban backcountry travel where there is a high fire danger risk.

"We've had people getting in the way of firefighters when they have no bloody business being there. They should be banned from the backcountry," Gillis said.

Meanwhile, a growing public swell of support to call for a state of emergency has surfaced in an online petition reaching nearly 15,000 signatures.

There are currently local states of emergency in a majority of the ten regional district electoral areas and a total of 19 evacuation orders.

Go here to see updates from the regional district on ongoing emergency alerts.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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