By Karen Graham
21 August 2018

(Digital Journal) – While British Columbia Premier John Horgan was touring the wildfire-ravaged, smoke-filled area around Prince George Tuesday morning. Al Beaver, an independent risk management expert who worked on fire management for governments in Canada and Australia was speaking with The Current's guest host Ioanna Roumeliotis.

Flanked by the federal defense minister, the mayor of Prince George and a First Nations chief in Prince George, Premier Horgan addressed the media, saying wildfires have prompted an unprecedented second state of emergency in the province in the last 12 months, after the devastating floods this spring.

"We're concerned, all of us, that this may be the new normal," Horgan said, adding that emergency officials are very worried about the wind and lightning forecast for the region, and no rain in the forecast. Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said the Canadian Armed Forces have deployed about 300 personnel to help fight the fires in B.C., adding, "We're coming together far too often like this."

Aerial video captured by pilot Zsolt Timar-Geng of a huge pyrocumulus cloud over Burns Lake on 20 August 2018, showing the scale of wildfires raging in British Columbia. Photo: Zsolt Timar-Geng / Twitter

B.C. is dealing with over 565 wildfires on Tuesday, and over 20,000 people are under evacuation orders. The raging wildfires have thrown a thick blanket of smoke across western Canada, drifting down to combine with the smoke from the fires burning across the western United States.

The smoke is so bad, it is readily visible from space and is so dangerous that air quality alerts have been posted everywhere in western North America. But Beaver points out that while the smoke is a health hazard, it also makes it difficult for fire officials to spot new fires, limiting firefighting tactics that can be used.

"Current fire suppression technology is vastly inferior to the extremes of nature," he said, adding that there are no fire-season-ending events on the near horizon. "They need rain," he said. […]

Horgan also brought up the independent review of last year's devastating wildfires and floods in B.C. He said the province was halfway through the review when they had to put the report aside to deal with this year's fires.

"From flood to fire to flood and then again to fire … and we have had two states of emergency — that's unprecedented," he said. "That speaks to the changing environment we live in and the ravages of climate change." [more]

B.C. fires are the 'new normal' says Premier John Horgan

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