One day after declaring a state of emergency due to B.C.’s wildfire situation, the province has issued an order banning non-essential travel to fire-affected communities.
On Saturday (Aug. 19), Premier David Eby, Emergency Minister Bowinn Ma and Forests Minister Bruce Ralston joined officials with BC Wildfire Service to provide an update.
Roughly 35,000 people are displaced by evacuation orders and 30,000 are under alert preparing for possible orders to escape at short notice, according to Eby – although Ma later referred to 30,000 people under evacuation orders.
The new order is in response to the “urgent need” for accommodations for those being forced out of their homes, Eby said.
The order, which is effective until Sept. 4, restricts travel to the communities of Kelowna, Kamloops, Oliver, Osoyoos, Penticton and Vernon. It does not impact someone already staying in campgrounds, hotels or motels in these communities. However, provincial leadership urged those who can check out early to do so in order to free up rooms for evacuees.
“Let me be clear. Temporary accommodation in the areas I have listed are no longer available for non-essential visits,” Ma said, adding would-be tourists need to “change your plans.”
The order excludes travel for medical reasons, funerals and a range of other activities.
Eby also said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth had authorized emergency provisions to allow municipal RCMP resources to be deployed to evacuated areas and secure empty properties.
On Saturday, the premier began the news conference by thanking frontline crews after what he called a challenging night.
“We have seen heroic efforts… heard harrowing stories about last night and I want to thank all local officials leading efforts,” Eby said.
“The current situation is grim.”