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

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

(File photo)
After several years in limbo, Parkland Manor to be torn down

Rimoka Housing Foundation has received funding and approval for the demolition

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Blackfalds RCMP investigate fatal collision

Preliminary investigation revealed a south bound pickup truck collided with an eastbound car

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Most Read