The Cariboo-Chilcoltin Wildfires

It is a difficult feeling for anyone to receive the news that they are being evacuated from their home. Many feelings, thoughts, and memories cross a persons mind; will I see my house again? What do I take with me? Where will we go?

This was, and still is, the reality for many British Columbians this July with hundreds of wildfires breaking out around the province, and many of them are in very close proximity to communities. On July 9th my hometown of 100 Mile House was evacuated due to a wildfire on the Gustafsen Forest Service Road, slightly west of town. Two days prior on July 7th the 108 Mile Ranch, 105 Mile House and 103 Mile House, where a large percentage of people in the region reside, were also evacuated.

Subsequently, fires were breaking out around the province leading to other evacuations in Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Princeton, Williams Lake, 150 Mile House, Anahim Lake, Loon Lake, Clinton, Little Fort, Clearwater, Kersley, Lake Country and many other communities around the province. The government quickly declared a Provincial State of Emergency.

Other communities in the province stepped up in a big way to accept the people who were displaced, provide food, comforts and a place to stay. Both Kamloops and Prince George accepted thousands of people who were displaced due to the wildfires.

Yesterday, we received notice that the evacuation order for the 100 Mile House area had been lifted and people could return home but the area remains on evacuation alert. It was no small feat in getting to the point where people can return. The town of 100 Mile House was seriously threatened by the fire including West Fraser’s Lumber Mill west of town, and Norbord’s Oriented Strand Board plant. Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of firefighters, the village of 100 Mile House did not lose any structures. However, many people who reside in the 105, 108 and 103 Mile House areas lost their homes.

Once a community is evacuated, it is a challenging task to prepare the community to accept people again. Power and gas lines need to be checked for safety, services like hospitals and grocery stores also need to be stocked and prepared to accept people. The power has been out for several days in many areas and people who return home will be faced with wasted food in their fridges and freezers as well as significant fire activity that could have been very close to their homes.

An event like this really demonstrates the strength of a community. Hundreds of people have been putting in incredibly long hours, fighting the fires, helping evacuees, communicating information and working towards getting through this tragedy. I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to all of the logging contractors, truckers, municipal and forestry fire fighters, especially to the Cariboo Regional District and the District of 100 Mile House staff for all of their work over the last 3 weeks to protect everyone’s homes. They did an amazing job keeping our community safe.

On Monday, I will return to work and we can return to normal operations at West Fraser. However, no one will forget this summer. I hope this serves as a learning experience for everyone to be vigilant in our summer season. A number of these fires were human caused and are 100% preventable. The cost of people’s homes, and wages cannot be understated and it will take some time for people to recover from these events. The Provincial and Federal Governments have stepped up to provide funds for the evacuees and the Canadian Red Cross has been instrumental.

There are also other fundraisers for evacuees including this T-Shirt Fundraiser by a couple of locals. All proceeds will go to the Red Cross and local Fire Departments and the folks who have created the fundraiser have generously agreed to match 2X up to $5000 dollars. Meaning every T-shirt purchased will net a $75 donation. They have already raised $14,000 to date.

Here is the link https://squareup.com/store/BCWildFires/

View from the Air of Gustafsen FSR fire and 100 Mile House. You can see the West Fraser Mill in the top left corner

View from our family home

View from our office window

View from our office parking lot

View from the 105 lake

The welcome party for people returning to 100 Mile House

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