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State of emergency declared in Squamish in response to wildfire

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has joined the District of Squamish in declaring a local state of emergency
Photo by Hannah Taggart

In response to the wildfire in the Upper Squamish Valley, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has joined the District of Squamish in declaring a local state of emergency.

“This is a very trying time for our communities already, in light of everything that is happening in our world right now,” said SLRD Board Chair Tony Rainbow in a news release.

“The majority of the Upper Squamish Valley is within the SLRD, and we are actively working with all of the many agencies involved in fighting this fire. Our thoughts are with all of the residents who are impacted by this fire.”

The SLRD continues to be in contact with lead agencies responding to this fire.

Authorities say several homes in the regional district have been evacuated and residents needing a place to stay have been directed to the Executive Suites Hotel in Squamish.

At that location, they will be connected with the Squamish Canadian Red Cross Emergency Support Services.

Last night, the District of Squamish had declared a state of emergency.

"A wildfire and its impacts knows no borders, and so the swift and coordinated initial and ongoing effort of multiple jurisdictions is critical to effectively support the response, and most importantly to support those residents directly impacted," says District of Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott in the release.

"The District of Squamish, through declaring a local state of emergency, is prepared to receive and assist evacuees in conjunction with the Red Cross, and enables us to act quickly should this fire threaten residents within the District of Squamish. Our support efforts will be focused on all the residents who are impacted, and with the emergency personnel on the ground."

Evacuation orders remain in effect and RCMP are urging people to stay away from the area.

"Please give us support by not visiting the area and allowing us to focus on the work at hand," said Insp. Kara Triance.

RCMP Sgt. Sascha Banks said the fire is not contained and is still moving.

The fire had reached 60 hectares by late Wednesday night.

It remained that size on Thursday morning, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

The fire is suspected to be human-caused, burning in heavy timber, and remains out of control, said fire information officer Donna MacPherson.

To battle the blaze on April 16, there will be 42 BC Wildfire Service firefighters, three helicopters and three excavators on it, she said.

BC Hydro crews are in the area evaluating their power lines and poles.

"The fire is anticipated to be relatively quiet this morning," MacPherson said.

On April 15, BC Wildfire Service had 22 firefighters and three helicopters battling the blaze.

The three excavators were also employed.

One crew stayed on the fire overnight to protect structures.

A structural protection unit was borrowed from Squamish Fire Rescue.

That is a kit that is assembled and contains pumps, hoses and sprinkler units to protect structures.

"They had one in Squamish and they were willing to loan it to us, which is great," MacPherson said.

The Squamish Valley campground, with six camping units, was evacuated by RCMP and BC Wildfire service.

The fire was "quite quiet" overnight.

"It was down to what we call a ground fire. It wasn't burning much more than smoking ground with a little bit of open flame in the shrubs," she said.

The blaze began at 4:15 p.m Wednesday afternoon, within the Upper Squamish Valley, which is within the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD).

Several homes were evacuated within the SLRD and housing has been arranged for residents at Squamish hotels.

The Canadian Red Cross will be helping evacuees on Thursday.

Squamish Valley residents beyond Magee Road are on Evacuation Alert.

The declaration of local emergency was announced at 11 p.m. April. 15 and is for residents within District boundaries in Paradise Valley, according to a District press release.

Declaring a state of local emergency enables municipalities to exercise extraordinary emergency powers.

More on local states of emergency here.

"The District of Squamish has been in close contact with lead agencies BC Wildfire Service, Squamish RCMP and the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD), and issued the Evacuation Alert this evening following their recommendation." reads the District release.

"Agencies are also co-ordinating efforts with the Squamish Nation as the Ch’iyakmesh Reserve is also under Evacuation Alert."

Squamish Fire Rescue (SFR) has two crews—10 firefighters and one engine—and a structural protection unit helping battle the blaze, according to the District.

The District fire department is working to protect structures and homes directly threatened by fire.

This story has been updated with new information since originally published by the Squamish Chief on April 15.