BC – I want to provide you with an update on the RCMP efforts in assisting with fire suppression in the Central and Southeast portion of our province.
As you know, there are over 200 fires burning in a number of communities, with the most aggressive in Williams Lake, Ashcroft / Cache Creek, 100 Mile House and Princeton.
On Friday evening, we stood up our Division Emergency Operations Centre here at BC RCMP Headquarters, as we do during major events and situations, such as natural disasters like fires.
The DEOC is our command and coordination facility where we provide operational support and assistance to frontline policing in terms of planning, logistics, resource deployment and procurement of necessary supplies and equipment, like respirators, and protective eyewear…. to name a few.
Based on the fluidity of the situation and constantly fluctuating needs, we have mobilized additional RCMP officers from all over the province to help BC Fire Services with evacuation orders in those affected communities. The numbers are changing regularly, but it would be safe to say that as of this morning upwards of 300 additional members have been or will be deployed.
Those officers are also there to supplement core RCMP policing duties in these areas, as we have jurisdiction.
Some of the duties our officers are tasked with other than regular policing include 24 hour patrolling of evacuated neighborhoods, managing traffic congestion, road safety and general emergency response, along with assisting with evacuations alerts and orders as they occur.
We are constantly assessing our resource deployment based on emergent needs, while ensuring policing duties in all of our communities we provide service and other responsibilities we have as your provincial police force are not compromised.
We also want to emphasize that we are prioritizing public and officer safety and wellness. A large portion of the resources deployed at the moment are from specialized units such as the tactical troop and traffic services.
Tactical troops are specialized units that are trained and equipped to deal with emergency situations and are essentially self-sufficient.
We are ensuring that the health and well-being of our officers and support staff remain a priority.
We have a provincial team reviewing shift schedules to ensure proper levels of resources are maintained, while providing our people breaks and down time. We have short term and long term strategies in place.
In cooperation with the BC Government Police Services, other RCMP resources from outside the province have been identified to assist. The benefit of a National organization is that we have the ability to draw from resources across the Country. Alberta RCMP will have 40 resources on the ground here in BC within the next few days.
We understand that this is a very stressful time for evacuees, some of whom are understandably concerned about the security of their homes and properties.
We too have employees and police officers that live in these communities and are similarly impacted by evacuation orders and alerts. Many of our members and their families have been evacuated and at least two of our officers have lost their homes to fire.
The officers deployed in those evacuated communities are patrolling around the clock to ensure you have a secure community to return home to as soon as it is safe to do so.
The RCMP are doing what we can to prevent access to non-essential workers and services in those evacuated zones, and have personnel in place at checkpoints to ensure that access protocols are observed by in-coming vehicles.
There is no tolerance for criminal activities within evacuated areas and we have in fact arrested 10 individuals within 100 Mile House and Williams Lake for break and enter, breach and mischief. Most of whom are local individuals previous known to police.
We will continue to work with our partners and provide any and all necessary assistance.
In closing, this is an unprecedented situation and one that continues to rapidly change. The RCMP has received tremendous support from our partners and we are continuing to meet the various policing needs. Our officers and employees continue to exceed my expectations and they will continue to have our full support moving forward.