B.C. lifts wildfires state of emergency

VANCOUVER — The provincial state of emergency has been lifted in British Columbia more than two months after thousands of residents were chased from their homes and hundreds of buildings were lost in ferocious wildfires that set records for destruction.

The state of emergency that expires at midnight Friday was declared July 7 after dozens of out-of-control wildfires broke out in B.C.’s Interior. At the peak of the disaster, almost 50,000 residents were staying with family members or living in shelters, hotels and campgrounds.

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said Friday that fire and emergency crews along with volunteers provided a “phenomenal effort” through the fire season that continues to threaten some parts of the province.

“We still have certain areas in certain regions facing volatile situations and we’re continuing to actively and vigorously fight the fires in those areas,” he said, adding people should remain prepared and follow directions of local authorities if fires flare.

For areas returning to regular life, Donaldson said recovery efforts to get logging, tourism, agriculture and other industries running are already underway.

The state of emergency allowed for better co-ordination between agencies responding to the fires and to public safety needs, and a $100-million fund was made available to support thousands of evacuees.

Donaldson said $21 million of that fund has been delivered to date to approximately 52,000 people.

Some of those residents lost their homes. Emergency Management BC said 509 structures were lost and 229 of those were residences.

Over 11,900 square kilometres of land has been charred since April 1, which the BC Wildfire Service said is the largest area burned in the province’s recorded history.

There are still 155 fires burning in B.C., and 11 evacuation orders are in place affecting more than 3,000 people.

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