Defence Minister touches down in Kamloops, voices federal commitment to wildfires

By Vanessa Ybarra
July 14, 2017 - 6:00pm

KAMLOOPS — Canada's defence minister Harjit Sajjan toured the evacuation centre at TRU Friday morning.

As it stands, the Canadian Armed Forces have provided numerous aircraft to aid in a potential large scale evacuation.

So far, the military's role has been to oversee the operations on the ground and prepare contingency plans should the situation escalate.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's visit to TRU Friday was focused on bringing as much peace-of-mind as possible to evacuee victims and the province as a whole.

"This is a time of need for Canadians and we want to make sure that all levels of government will be there for them."

After touring the evacuation centre Sajjan spoke with evacuees including Marry Hatch.

He and his wife have been anxiously waiting to return to their 100 Mile Home for the past six days.

"Sajjan said he felt sorry for us and hoped everything work out good," said Hatch. "It made me feel really good. At least they're doing something, so that's great."

That 'something' being providing firefighters with air support.

"We've had assets in the air before the request was made," said Sajjan. "Our pilots have been doing flights into the area making sure safety is being looked at as well building contingency plans for the wind expected this weekend."

More than 150 wildfires continue to burn throughout the Cariboo and Southern Interior region.

Prime MInister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday an Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee has been created to coordinate fire efforts from the federal level.

"This allows all of the various departments and ministers responsbile for the departments to have a sense of what's going on and to be able to look at the needs of the province and anticipate what we need to move forward," said Sajjan.

For Sajjan, the wildfire wreckage hits home.

The 46-year-old lived in 100 Mile House between the age of six and seven.

100 Mile Evbacuee Chris Watkins made a point to go up to Sajjan after the media gathering to say thanks.

"A lot of times you have your Federal and Provincial ministers that come out here to see how things are going and a lot of people can get agressive," said Watkins. "I think it's nice to say thank you for the efforts you're putting in for my friends and acquaintances."

Sajjan promised to continue those efforts until B.C's wildfire fight is over.

"It's about making sure we're ready for every contigency," said Sajjan. "Hopefully it doesn't come to that, but if it does we're ready."

Small fires popping up in hills above Ashcroft, Cache Creek