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Feds offering ‘full support’ for Okanagan fires: Sajjan

Emergency management minister says more work needs to be done on prevention, adaptation
Emergency Management Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks during press conference in Ottawa on July 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Federal Emergency Management Minister Harjit S. Sajjan is offering the government’s full support to those impacted by the wildfires in the Kelowna area.

Sajjan made the remarks Friday (Aug. 18) during a federal press conference on the wildfire situation in the Northwest Territories.

“One thing I can assure you is we’ve offered up full federal support in support of this fire,” he said, encouraging all residents to listen to the guidance of local authorities.

He added he’s been in contact with his B.C. counterpart, Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma and the federal government operations centre has been in contact with officials in B.C. The provincial government has scheduled an update for 1 p.m. Friday.

“The message that we got back is that their best crews are actually on this fire, but the winds were very concerning and we didn’t know where things were going and as we know that now some of the fire has shifted.”

READ MORE: ‘We fought 100 years worth of fires’: Officials give update on Okanagan blazes

Both Kelowna and West Kelowna are dealing with major fires.

The McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna is now 6,800 hectares, according to BC Wildfire Service. Throughout Thursday night and into Friday morning, the blaze spread east, over the mountains toward Okanagan Lake.

Then late Thursday, a wildfire sparked on the other side of the lake in the Clifton and McKinley area of Kelowna.

READ MORE: More evacuation orders due to McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna

READ MORE: Evacuation orders for Kelowna’s Shayler area due to Glenmore blaze

The wildfires have also forced the closure of airspace around Kelowna International Airport.

Sajjan added that he was recently in Kamloops and Osoyoos, where he was briefed on protocols. He said the system is “extremely seamless.”

“It just goes to show how well the system works, but a the same time, it’s because of year after year we’ve had this experience. It’s sad that we have to do so.”

Sajjan said discussions in the future need to be around prevention, work on adaptation and “we need to make sure that the right resources are even enhanced when it comes to response as well.”

– With files from Jordy Cunningham, Ashley Wadhwani, Wolf Depner


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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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