The British Columbia government has declared a province-wide state of emergency in response to the ongoing wildfire situation.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth made the declaration on Wednesday morning.

“Public safety is always our first priority and, as wildfire activity is expected to increase, this is a progressive step in our wildfire response to make sure British Columbia has access to any and all resources necessary,” Farnworth said in a statement.

The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days, once issued, and may be extended or rescinded as necessary.

It applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a coordinated response to protect the public.

“Taking this step will further ensure we can protect the public, property, and infrastructure, and assist with firefighting efforts,” he said.

The declaration comes as smoke from hundreds of wildfires continues to blanket the province and evacuation orders expand across the north and central regions.

So far this year, more than 380,000 hectares have been burned by wildfires, making it the fourth worst season on record.

Farnworth noted there are some very significant differences when compared with the record-setting 1.2 million hectares burned last year.

“This year we are dealing with fires all over the province, whereas last year they were concentrated in a number of areas.”

The fires are also not as large or as close to communities as last year, he said.