BRITISH COLUMBIA

BC Wildfires: New Premier John Horgan Extends State of Emergency In 'Unprecedented' Move

The province's wildfires show no sign of slowing down.

07/19/2017 15:45 EDT | Updated 07/19/2017 15:49 EDT

VICTORIA — British Columbia's new government is extending the state of emergency for two more weeks as wildfires sweeping across the province's Interior show no sign of slowing down.

Premier John Horgan said his government's first priority is to support the more than 45,000 people displaced by the fires, which have so far torched more than 3,200 square kilometres of land.

"It's clear to me that we need to do more," Horgan told reporters, speaking outside the legislature in Victoria on his first full day as premier. "We need to give additional support to the communities affected, and the first responders."

The current state of emergency expires Friday and Horgan said he regrets having to lengthen it.

Ben Nelms / Reuters
The remains of a home after being destroyed by a wildfire in Boston Flats, British Columbia, Canada July 17, 2017.

Horgan also said people who are kept out of their homes for more than 14 days will get a second payment of $600, which will be paid out of a previously announced $100-million fund administered by the Canadian Red Cross.

"This is unprecedented," Horgan said. "Traditionally, when an emergency is declared, people are usually back in their homes within the two-week period. That may not be the case for many individuals."

People forced to leave their homes earlier this year by floods in the Okanagan are also eligible for the increased funds, he added.

Horgan said 80 per cent of the people who have registered at wildfire evacuation centres set up across the province have already received the first $600 instalment to help with food, shelter and other expenses.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson have been tapped to co-chair a task force assigned with ensuring the emergency response is not disturbed by the transition between governments.

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