BCWS urges public to comply with evacuation orders when issued

Urged to follow evac orders

The BC Wildfire Service is urging the public to cooperate with evacuation orders when they are issued by local governments.

At a provincial government news conference Tuesday afternoon, Rob Schweitzer, director of fire centre operations for the BC Wildfire Service, said the agency has heard “several reports” of people opting not to evacuate when ordered to leave their homes.

Schweitzer said he understands many have lived off rural land for generations and feel the need to stay to defend their property.

However Schweitzer said the risk is high, especially as seasoned firefighters are seeing fire behaviour and conditions “much more different than what we’ve seen in the past.”

“Most people in B.C. have never experienced an active wildfire event. And the conditions that we're seeing this year are some of the most extreme that have ever been experienced in this province,” Schweitzer said.

“Those situations can be disorienting and confusing, and your ability to keep yourself and your family safe may be severely impacted.”

Schweitzer said those who don’t obey evacuation orders have caused firefighting resources to be redirected for rescue efforts.

“I am aware of at least three situations where we had to divert our resources, either on the ground or in the air, to assist with evacuating people that got caught behind that fire line and their evacuation route, or their escape route, was cut off,” he said.

Schweitzer said residents who remain beyond a recommended departure time might find their anticipated evacuation routes blocked, and access to information limited.

“We've even seen in other jurisdictions, numerous fatalities that have occurred when people chose remain behind and decided to leave only when the fire got closer,” he said.

“I really urge everyone that is listening today that we do need the public's cooperation and support on this front.”

Pader Brach, executive director of regional operations for Emergency Management BC, had a similar message for the public.

“I want to remind everyone to follow the directions of local authorities if placed on evacuation order,” Brach said.

“Leave immediately. If placed on evacuation alert, be prepared to leave quickly.”

Brach said as of Tuesday afternoon, there are 3,700 properties under evacuation order across the province, and 18,000 homes on evacuation alert.

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