Trudeau to visit B.C. community where 10,000 displaced by wildfires

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REVELSTOKE, B.C.—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to see the effect of British Columbia’s wildfires first hand Monday, as the situation continues to shift.

Trudeau, Premier John Horgan and several federal cabinet ministers are set to visit Williams Lake, an Interior community where about 10,000 people were forced from their homes as flames threatened to cut access to highways.

The group includes sports minister and Delta MP Carla Qualtrough, who has been put in charge of a committee to organize fire recovery efforts.

Trudeau and the others will meet with military and RCMP members from a command centre in Williams Lake before visiting the fire centre and getting an aerial tour of the fire zone.

Residents of Williams Lake have been returning home for the past few days after being ordered to leave more than two weeks ago.

Others in the region remain out of their homes after a flurry of evacuation orders were issued late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

Seventy-five kilometres south of 100 Mile House, residents of the village of Clinton and surrounding areas were forced from their homes because of the flames were “rapidly moving.”

The Cariboo Regional District has also issued an expanded evacuation order for the Clisbako area, about 100 kilometres west of Quesnel. It also issued an evacuation alert for a region south of Highway 24, north of the Green Lake area that is under an evacuation order.

Trudeau was in Revelstoke Saturday urging Canadians to donate to the Red Cross to aid in relief efforts for fire-ravaged B.C. communities.

“I know that once again, as we have in challenges in the past, Canadians will step up, stand together and show their compassion,” Trudeau said.

Meanwhile, First Nations in the path of the fires are calling for equal funding and recognition of expertise granted to other emergency response organizations, in order to protect their communities.

The Assembly of First Nations adopted a resolution at its annual meeting last week in Regina calling for an end to jurisdictional disputes between different levels of government that disrupt Indigenous communities’ ability to respond to the recent fires in their own backyards.

Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band said First Nations must be more actively involved in negotiating agreements to ensure Indigenous firefighters and other service providers get the same recognition as regional and provincial authorities.

“They are front line and they need to be recognized the same as any other firefighters and also resourced properly,” she said.

This week, officials fear high temperatures and a chance for lightning could increase fire activity.

Environment Canada forecasts rising temperatures up to and above 30 C for the southern Interior in the coming week, and the BC Wildfire Service has said the forests are much more dry than normal.

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