Ten days — and many more fires — after first discussing the issue, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District will ask the province to declare a state of emergency.
On Thursday afternoon (July 15), the board revisited a previous decision made during a July 5 special meeting, when it decided not to make such a request.
Upon revising the motion, the board on Thursday voted unanimously to urge the province to deliver the declaration.
In voting in favour of the motion, Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer said he does not think people appreciate the complexity of the wildfire situation. He said people from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development have indicated they have “no more capacity” and a 2,000-hectare fire burning out of control northeast of Douglas Lake does not have equipment on scene.
“I don’t think people truly understand what’s really going on,” Stamer said. “And trust me, I’ve been here. I don’t think we need anybody to be playing games. I think we need a state of emergency. If the province wants to turn around and say a portion is safe, we can still get goods and services in and out, fine and dandy. But we’re going to have a real problem here if we don’t get any precipitation in the next couple of weeks.”
Stamer added: “Don’t be surprised if all hell breaks loose because this is two weeks earlier than 2003 [a significant wildfire year] and, where I just came from, there is no water anywhere. Nothing. So I’m not trying to raise alarm bells, but we better get on it right now or shit’s gonna hit the fan. And, yes, I know this is an open meeting. Thank you.”
Merritt Mayor Linda Brown expressed concern over a loss of logging in the region, which has meant industry machinery once utilized to fight fires is no longer available.
Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell said the situation is evolving at a rapid rate, arguing it is important all efforts be utilized.
“Everything I’m hearing says that we need all hands on deck,” he said.
One director who did not vote in favour of revisiting the July 5 decision was Kamloops Coun. Arjun Singh.
Singh said that while he feels the same anxiety and concern, it is not clear more resources will be forthcoming as a result of a state of emergency declaration. He also questioned whether it was a good idea to get into a “public fight” with the province.
TNRD Area B (Thompson Headwaters) director Stephen Quinn also expressed concern about including the entire province in a state of emergency declaration.
He said when states of emergency were declared during the fires of 2003 and 2017, it “collapsed the whole economy.”
TNRD chair Ken Gillis said the board is not getting into a squabble with the province, but rather “urging” the province to issue the declaration. He added it would be up to the province to exclude areas, should it wish to make that decision.