BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. Fires: Premier Compares Firefighting Efforts To Playing Chess With A Cheater

07/08/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 07/09/2016 05:59 EDT
PEMBERTON, B.C. - Firefighters battling the flames in British Columbia's forests are playing a dangerous game with an opponent that doesn't play by the rules, said Premier Christy Clark.

The premier was in Pemberton, B.C., on Wednesday, a small community east of the Elaho blaze. The fire, at 200 square kilometres, is one of the largest in the province and B.C.'s Wildfire Service said it is burning uncontained because it's generating too much smoke for aircraft to fight.

Fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said about 190 wildfires are burning around the province, 31 of those started on Tuesday alone.

Clark told reporters the government will spend what's needed to fight the flames and call upon the necessary resources, even if that means going around the world.

"You know I was saying to one of the guys, 'fighting fires, fighting these kinds of fires is like playing a chess game,'" she said.

"'You've got to figure out the people that you need, the resources that you need, have them deployed in the right spot. The difference is, when you are playing a chess game with a forest fire, your opponent cheats. They don't play by the rules and that's the problem that these brave men and women are facing every day.'"

Clark also referred to the three-square-kilometre fire burning north of the Sunshine Coast community of Sechelt that claimed the life of a 60-year-old man on Sunday.

Logger John Phare was struck and killed by a falling tree.

"We should all be really grateful for what they are doing," she said of the firefighters. "They are blackened and dirty and sweaty and they're very much in harm's way every minute of the day and they're doing that for all of us in the province."

Forty properties in B.C. remained on evacuation order Wednesday, including some cabins, and about 500 homes were on evacuation alert.

A fire east of Lake Kookanusa has been contained and all evacuation alerts issued by the Regional District of East Kootenay for areas around the wildfire have been lifted.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson said earlier in the week that 70 firefighters from Ontario were expected to arrive in B.C., and the province will be getting help from Australian crews.

Skrepnek said a six-member firefighting crew who came with three aircraft from Ontario were being briefed before heading to Vancouver Island to drop fire retardant or water on blazes.

Over 1,000 of B.C.'s firefighters have been deployed, along with more than 600 who are on contract.

The air quality in Whistler, B.C., not far from the Elaho fire, is rated at 12 on a scale that normally doesn't surpass 10. A B.C. government advisory said the air quality in the area is a very high health risk, and people should avoid strenuous outdoor activities.

Metro Vancouver said an air quality advisory issued Sunday is continuing as wildfire smoke remains in the region and surrounding areas.

It said people with chronic conditions should avoid strenuous exercise and that infants, the elderly, those with diabetes and lung or heart disease should stay indoors in air conditioned spaces to reduce exposure to fine particulates.

-- by Keven Drews and Camille Bains in Vancouver

Also on HuffPost

B.C. Wildfires 2015