All residents of Area L in the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) are now under evacuation alert due to an out of control fire situation actively fueled by high winds now blowing northward increasing the danger of impacts from the Ashcroft Reserve Fire.
Those who turned out to an update meeting held on the lawns outside at the Lone Butte Community Hall at 4 p.m. today (July 15) listened to Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, BC Fire Information Officer Heather Rice, Emergency Support Services (ESS), RCMP, and others deliver everything from the reasons for the alert to the roles each service provides to the community at large.
While much media focus in the South Cariboo has been on the Gustafson fire, this Thompson-Nicola Regional District fire at Ashcroft Reserve, now estimated at 42,300 hectares, has already ordered the evacuation of Loon Lake homes, and is now threatening all of CRD Area L-particularly those in the wind’s path.
“The weather is causing some changes as we speak,” said Rice. “The weather is supposed to be changing significantly overnight, which could also change the fire activity. So, please be very aware of what is happening in and around your area, and be very aware that changes could happen quickly.”
She pointed to cariboord.bc.ca website and others on the handout, noting most links also can be found on the CRD website.
Rice is assigned to the Gustafson fire further north, but provided as much information on the Ashcroft Reserve fire as she could, and fielded questions afterwards with Fire Information Officer Terry Murphy (as did all the other speakers and representatives).
She began by reminding everyone about the boating closures on Williams, Lac la Hache, Watson and Horse lakes to allow safe water skimming by aircraft for the fire crews, and that RCMP are monitoring compliance offenders.
“Currently the Gustafson fire still sits at 5,000 ha. We have made good success [with] that fire, we are running both day and night shifts on that fire as best we can.”
The wind blowing smoke from the Ashcroft fire is “pretty obvious now” to those in Area L, she said, describing the Interlakes area she had just come from as “barely able to see anything,” adding later in her verbal update that the fire is “moving in a northerly direction and will continue to do so.”
ESS representative Liz Jones then stepped up to the microphone to update everyone on what they need to do now to prepare for a potential evacuation order, should this happen, particularly on short notice.
“An alert is the time to go home and gather up the things that really mean a lot to you, the things you need to make yourself comfortable if you are in [basic] lodgings. Take a pillow, a blanket, if you need a teddy [bear], grab it.”
Clean underwear is a “hot item” for many evacuees who run short of these essentials, and things like hearing aids and batteries, eyeglasses, and anything else you need should be readied to go on short notice, if necessary, she explained.
Jones advised that if Area L is evacuated, then go to one of the ESS reception areas listed online or on the handout.
“The College of New Caledonia in Prince George has an ESS reception area for any of us that want to, to go up there if they are evacuated. We can also go to the Thompson Rivers University [TRU] ESS in Kamloops and register … with the reception centre there.”
While Jones noted there is an ESS centre at the town hall in Barriere, it is intended only for emergency situations such as “something you desperately need and have no other way of getting it.”
Another update meeting is scheduled at the same location at 3 p.m. tomorrow (July 16).
Grab your house insurance papers to bring along when you pack, and if you do have displacement insurance, you can bring them to a “resilience centre” on McArthur Island in Kamloops set up to assist you with your claims, Jones added.
You may also call the United Way at 1-250-372-9933 or the CRD information line at 1-866-759-4977. Every evacuee is encouraged to register with the Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582, or online. Kamloops TRU ESS is at 1-250-377-7188.