Chiefs of 16 communities of the Secwépemc Nation have signed on to a declare a state of emergency due to wildfires in the area.
The Secwépemc Nation will establish its own emergency operations centre to co-ordinate activities within the nation in response to the fires.
The nation spans 180,000 square kilometres and has 17 autonomous communities.
Sixteen of those communities have signed on to the state of emergency, including Sexqeltqín (Adams Lake), St’uxwtéws (Bonaparte), Tsq’éscen (Canim Lake), Stswécem’c/Xgat’tem’ (Canoe/Dog Creek), Esk’étemc (Alkali Lake), Llenllenéy’ten (High Bar), Tk’emlúps (Kamloops), Sk’atsin (Neskonlith), Simpcw (North Thompson), Ts’kw’aylaxw (Pavilion), Kenpésq’t (Shuswap), Skítsesten (Skeetchestn), Xats’úll (Soda Creek), Splats’in (Spallumcheen), T’éxel’c (Williams Lake) and Stil’qw/Pelltíq’t (Whispering Pines/Clinton).
"The chiefs have identified this as a drastic measure to ensure the continued safety of, and to reduce the threat to, vulnerable populations (elders, immuno-compromised members with pre-existing and chronic health conditions, babies and young children) and also to communities’ infrastructure," reads a statement from the nation, released on Tuesday afternoon (July 20).
Earlier Tuesday, the provincial government finally declared a provincial state of emergency, which nations such as the Skeetchestn have been calling for, including as recently as Monday evening.
Skeetchestn Natural Resources, a land management corporation within Skeetchestn territory, called upon the government to act after yet another new fire, the Tremont Creek wildfire, posed an imminent threat to the reserve lands.
Another fire ignited earlier, the Sparks Lake wildfire, prompted evacuation orders and alerts on reserve land earlier in July. Skeetchestn crews have been helping in the fight against the blaze since it started on June 28 about 15 kilometres north of the west end of Kamloops Lake. The fire, suspected to be human-caused, has since grown to almost 50,000 hectares in size.
There are currently about 300 wildfires burning in B.C. and there have been 1,145 to date. About 110 of the active fires are in the Kamloops Fire Centre.