Premier Christy Clark paid a visit to the Rock Creek fire evacuation center in Midway on Sunday afternoon to offer support to the evacuees and volunteers. She spoke to numerous people directly affected by the fire, as well as spending time with the numerous local residents who have stepped up to help those displaced by the blaze.
During a later press conference, she outlined her government’s goals regarding fire preparedness and prevention. “We need to build up our capacity to prevent and fight these fires”, said Clark, “because the reality is that this isn’t going to be an unusual event in the future just in terms of the number of fires we have so we need to expand capacity. The forestry ministry has done an incredible job of keeping people safe and protecting homes, but we want to have fewer fires and when we have fires we really want to tackle them and get them under control as fast as possible.”
Accompanied by MLA Linda Larson and Forestry minister Steve Thompson, Clark also responded to the possibility of the fire being human-caused, specifically by a motorist that threw a burning cigarette from their vehicle. “I was told that there were witnesses and there may be a government video of somebody throwing a cigarette butt from a vehicle”, said Clark, “and if we can find evidence that a specific individual is responsible for this fire we are going to do whatever we need to and use all the tools available to ensure that people are held accountable for irresponsible behaviour. We are having discussions right now across the province regarding potential penalties for those found throwing cigarette butts out of their car. Perhaps one of the penalties available is that we take away their car, or the use of their car for a period of time, though we have not decided anything yet.”
Clark thanked the residents of the Boundary for their contribution to the relief effort. ‘The people of Midway and Rock Creek have really stepped up”, she said, “and for that we are so lucky.”
When asked about the cost of fighting the fires this season, which has already hit $2 million, the Premier noted that because the province is in good fiscal shape, with a $1billion surplus in the books, paying for the firefighting efforts this season would be manageable. “We won’t have to go into debt to pay for this”, said Clark.
The Premier also visited the town of Oliver to assess the damage caused by fires there, which was far less extensive than that precipitated by that in Rock Creek and Westbridge.