Government officials in British Columbia, Canada, urged residents of wildfire-affected areas this weekend to stop taking hoses, sprinklers, and other firefighting gear from the government’s rescue teams, lamenting that critical equipment is disappearing.
Residents who spoke to CTV News confirmed that civilians are taking the equipment and trying to put out the fires themselves. They also said that, in many regions, civilians are the only groups of people actively trying to put out fires.
“We refuse to watch things burn,” Gordon Favell, a resident of Celista, British Columbia, told the news agency.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s yours, it doesn’t matter if it’s locked up – get it, put it to use, put some fires out,” he asserted. “That’s what’s going on here, locals helping locals.”
The desperate acts by Canadians feeling abandoned by their government — which has no federal firefighting agency and no functional emergency management organization — highlight the growing tragedy of one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in Canadian history, exacerbated by a lack of government forest management and slow responses from provincial governments to the emergencies. The wildfires have burned so expansively and for such a prolonged amount of time that the smoke has devastated the air quality of the United States, at its peak affecting as many as 70 million Americans and disappearing Manhattan into a plume of orange smog.
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The government of radical leftist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has blamed the fires on “climate change” rather than addressing the need for improved forest management and the development of more robust federal-level firefighting protocols. Trudeau’s contribution to the efforts to combat wildfires on Monday was to publicly condemn Facebook for shutting down access to news articles in the country in response to a recently passed law that required the social media outlet to pay news outlets to publish their content.
The fires have spanned almost the entirety of Canada’s territory. In June and July, much of the worst of the destruction was occurring in the east, particularly Quebec, where the government bizarrely rejected firefighters from Toronto to wait for imported help from South Korea, Chile, and France, among other nations.
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Currently, the west — particularly British Columbia and the Northwest Territories — is experiencing a severe emergency situation as a result of the fires.
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In British Columbia, Premier David Eby focused on urging residents to stop trying to put out the fires themselves using equipment meant for firefighters.
“We’ll put the best possible understanding on this – that people think they’re helping,” Eby said, according to CTV News. “They are not. You’re not helping if you’re moving firefighting equipment.”
“Gear that would protect dozens of homes is being moved to areas that are ineffective,” the British Columbia Wildfire Service (BCWS) said in a public statement this weekend, lamenting that equipment “has disappeared entirely and is suspected to be stolen.”
CTV described hoses, pumps, and even “all-terrain vehicles” disappearing from the possession of firefighting crews, particularly in North Shuswap, where locals said, “the province is not sending enough help to defend their homes, even with hundreds of firefighters battling the inferno.”
Authorities indicated that the thefts appear to be on the part of residents trying to fight the fires, and no evidence suggests the gear is being stolen for resale or other nefarious reasons.
One community, the Tsilhqot’in Nation, set up its own displaced persons’ lodging center with “family-size tents and spaces for recreational vehicles.” A statement from the community suggested that the tents may be necessary because it is currently “peak tourist season,” and hotels are busy; the Globe and Mail did not mention any actions by the Trudeau administration to address the emergency situation by limiting tourist access.
The government of the Northwest Territories, CTV News explained in an article on Monday, had largely focused on “defensive measures,” such as protecting the regional capital Yellowknife, rather than offensively trying to put out fires. Yellowknife issued an evacuation order this month for its 20,000 residents; 68 percent of the population of the Northwest Territories is under an evacuation order.
“With help from rain and changing wind conditions, we’re now in a position to pursue direct attack on the perimeter of this fire. We are mobilizing the personnel and skillsets required,” the Northwest Territories government said on its website on Monday.
In remarks from Prince Edward Island, in Canada’s far east, Trudeau congratulated Canadians on Monday for fending for themselves.
“I just want to say how inspiring it is to know that no matter how bad things get, Canadians are going to continue to be there for each other,” Trudeau said, acknowledging the “apocalyptic devastation” his people are enduring. News reports on his remarks during that appearance indicated that Trudeau offered to help Canadians by hosting an “incident response group” meeting to discuss the fires on Monday.
Trudeau mostly used the occasion to chastise Facebook for not offering Canadians access to news articles.
“Right now in an emergency situation where up to date local information is more important than ever, Facebook’s putting corporate profits ahead of people’s safety, ahead of supporting quality local journalism,” Trudeau railed. ” This is not the time for that.”
“It’s time for us to expect more from corporations like Facebook that are making billions of dollars off of Canadians,” he asserted.
Facebook ceased allowing news articles on its platform in Canada at the beginning of the month in response to the Online News Act, which requires social media outlets to sign compensation agreements with news companies to use their content. Instead of paying news outlets for their articles, Facebook essentially banned the publication of news in Canada.
In a statement to the Globe and Mail, Facebook clarified that Canadians can still use its groups feature to communicate with each other and share critical information without using news content published by a media corporation.
Facebook’s statement read:
The Online News Act forces us to end access to news content in order to comply with the legislation, but we remain focused on making our technologies available, including our Safety Check tool, which as of Friday more than 45,000 people had used to mark themselves safe.
“In addition, 300,000 people had visited the Yellowknife and Kelowna Crisis Response pages on Facebook to request support, check on loved ones and access information,” it concluded.