Premier David Eby stopped in Salmon Arm on Monday (Sept. 11) to meet with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, local politicians and First Nations leaders to talk about the wildfire that destroyed many communities of the North Shuswap.
Eby said it’s clear the people of the North Shuswap are resilient and ready to get on the road to recovery.
“I understand that this is a complicated story,” Eby said about residents who stayed behind to protect their property.
The premier noted that many individuals are credited with saving homes and businesses, but at times those individuals also impeded firefighting efforts. Eby said the province is looking at ways BC Wildfire Service can engage with people who know the land and equipment to fight blazes in a more organized way.
“It’s something that they did on the fly here. At certain points, there were 17 locals working side-by-side with BC Wildfire Service, which was a very positive thing because it was coordinated. How do we learn from that and go forward like countries, like Australia, that use volunteers aggressively?”
Some property owners stayed when the evacuation orders came down because they didn’t have insurance or weren’t covered in the event of a wildfire. Eby made it clear that the province will do what it can to help people get back on their feet.
“There are a lot of reports of seniors that may be in modular homes or in RVs, retired, with no insurance that are basically homeless now with no resources to be able to rebuild, and others who have lost everything - their place of employment burned down, their home burned down.”
The province is also ready to support local officials in rebuilding the fire-damaged communities, including resources to maintain staff and push forward building permits. “It won’t be overnight, but we’re going to provide the support that’s needed.”
The premier offered up a few more details about the recently announced task force for climate-related emergencies. Both those within the provincial government and outside individuals will gather and assess information from across B.C. to make appropriate changes when it comes to fighting wildfires.
“We don’t have the luxury of time to wait four to six months for a report to be written, for information to be gathered, recommendations to be finalized, and then react to those recommendations. By the time we’re moving to implement we’re into the next fire season.
“What we’re looking for is that as the information comes in from the regional district, from people on the front lines, and those recommendations come in, that we can immediately begin the changes and the training and the programs that we offer to be able to make sure that for next fire season, we’re already in position.”
Eby flew over the wildfire area and visited with several people who lost property in the blaze during his visit to the Shuswap.
The Bush Creek East wildfire has officially been burning for two months and is more than 43,000 hectares in size.