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

(File photo)
Ponoka’s seen rise in relationship ‘disharmony,’ domestic violence during COVID-19

While there has been an increase in files, not all have required charges to be laid

Students unvieled the goats that are part of the CO-OP Community Spaces Roofs for Kids Project at École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School. Photo Submitted
Lacombe school using goats as green solution

École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School (ÉSLCHS) welcomed the newest kids to… Continue reading

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. Advisers are reportedly recommending Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 4 arts and social studies curriculum remove all references to residential schools because it's "too sad" for young children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Documents suggest children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools

robbery
UPDATE: Shooting suspect arrested by Wetaskiwin/Camrose RCMP

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

File photo
RCMP’s response to online discussions about anti-racism demonstrations

Ponoka RCMP Staff Sgt.’s comments misattributed online

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

The project is expected to create up to 2,920 direct jobs during construction, the federal release said

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Most Read