Federal minister touts long term government response to BC wildfire crisis

By James Peters
August 16, 2017 - 4:04pm Updated: August 16, 2017 - 5:38pm

KAMLOOPS — The federal minister in charge of Ottawa's response to the BC wildfire crisis says government needs to come up with short term and long term responses to the catastrophe.

Carla Qualtrough, who chairs the Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Federal Recovery Efforts for 2017 BC Wildfires, visited Kamloops Wednesday.

This is her third visit to the region since the crisis began in early July.

"I'm back in Kamloops to meet with some stakeholders to see if there's anything else we can be doing," said Qualtrough. "To touch base with local government, I'm meeting with the deputy mayor. I'm meeting with the BC Cattlemen's Association. 40,000 cattle have been impacted. Hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of fencing has been impacted, so there is a significant hit on our agriculture sector by this fire."

While the provincial government is leading the wildfire fight itself, Ottawa has some involvement as well.

"Approximately 400 Canadian Forces personnel are on the ground right now in different areas of British Columbia," said Qualtrough. "We've deployed seven or eight helicopters and planes through the Canadian Forces, RCMP officers, 500 to 1,000 cots are in play, depending on the time of day."

Qualtrough adds immediate crisis action is the first phase of a response that will stretch into the long term.

"We need to look at what damage has occurred, and try to figure out the best way to restore buildings and businesses and people's lives, because many, many people have been impacted. And then there's the longer term look at how we, as multi levels of government, even manage and handle these kinds of disasters."

"We'll be doing an assessment as people return to their homes and as we get a better assessment of the loss. So whether it's cattle or fencing or buildings or public infrastructure like hydro. Different areas of government have different responsibilities, depending on what exactly has been lost or damaged, what's insured and all those factors."

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