The District of 100 Mile House releases South Cariboo Wildfire Recovery Plan

Campsall: ‘I look forward to further discussing the recommendations’

The District of 100 Mile House released the South Cariboo Wildfire Recovery Plan on Tuesday, which was prepared over the past several months, with a total of nearly 500 points of contact made to get a thorough understanding of the short and long-term impacts of the wildfires in the South Cariboo.

“Thinking about what our community went through last summer, I sincerely appreciate our residents and business people taking the time to talk with the recovery manager and share your stories to help us more fully understand and meet the challenges of recovery,” said Mitch Campsall, Mayor of the District of 100 Mile House.

“There is a lot of information in this recovery plan, but I look forward to further discussing the recommendations and making an action plan for moving forward with recovery; working with the community and the region will be key to implementing the plan and achieving positive outcomes and success.”

The plan, made by South Cariboo recovery manager, MJ Cousins, found several themes during the impact assessment phase of work. These themes include:

Business continuity challenges

South Cariboo businesses suffered significant losses from both evacuations and road closures. In the short term, businesses have reduced hours and/or staff to lower costs, but the concern is still there for their longer-term viability.

Significant and ongoing disruption at peak season for businesses and owners who depend on the land for their income, including ranching, forestry and tourism, has had a serious negative effect.

The 2018 summer/fall season will be a deciding factor on whether some land-based business will succeed.

Recommendations to address this issue:

• Stay familiar with conditions inside the local business community by making a business support task force of local government, community and industry representatives, to keep in touch with South Cariboo businesses so they can be informed on future recovery challenges and to enable, as possible, recovery success.

• Get a better understanding of the employment needs of businesses and find skills gaps inside the local labour pool, through a Labour Market Analysis for 100 Mile House and South Cariboo area.

• Encourage more local shoppers, increase the current shop local campaigns and encourage consumers to support local business with a marketing initiative aimed at residents, summer lake residents, and visitors.

• Bring in more customers, like summer residents throughout the area, as well as visitors and tourists, by making a South Cariboo micro-level community marketing plan, aimed at British Columbians and Albertans, who are the largest visitor groups.

• Attract more people into downtown 100 Mile House by hosting two more community-wide events each year, either directly or in partnership with local organizations, to promote and celebrate local business.

• Support business disaster resiliency by making a Cariboo Strong Business Resiliency program that gives information and templates as a guide for emergency planning, resilience and recovery to minimize operational disruptions.

Resiliency and preparedness for the future

A need for better preparedness in case of repeat disaster and emergency situations on a personal, local and regional basis was shown by residents. Reducing risk, especially to personal property, is a common recovery goal throughout the South Cariboo.

Recommendations to address this issue:

• Have the District of 100 Mile House go through a wildfire mitigation project inside the land-based areas under its jurisdiction (parks, community forest, roadside vegetation management) to reduce fire hazards and risks around the community.

• Support to South Cariboo Fire Departments and community groups to implement a resident-based South Cariboo Fire Smart program.

• Have 100 Mile House become a recognized FireSmart community.

Mental health and wellness issues

Mental health concerns from the trauma of wildfires include shock, denial, sleeplessness, fear, flashbacks, physical illnesses and emotional responses from triggers like smoke, slash burning, emergency sirens and others.

Anxiety is high with residents and businesses worried about more land and personal property damage, evacuations and road closures, because of repeat fires in the coming 2018 summer and beyond.

Emotional impacts might now show right away and the road to recovery is long; over time community members may have set-backs.

Recommendations to address this issue:

• Partner with the regional United Way Community Wellness managers to give emotional support through a community based psychosocial wellness plan.

• Ensure a South Cariboo municipal representative participates in the Mental Health and Wellness Wildfire Recovery Working Group.

Communication improvements, and business growth opportunities

Most of the information on the path of the wildfire, and on road closures for evacuations, was said through websites or Facebook posts; however, much of the South Cariboo isn’t well-served by telecommunications infrastructure.

This caused frustration in residents and gave them a fear of being uninformed—Internet or mobile access in much of the South Cariboo is weak or doesn’t exist.

Recommendations to address this issue:

• Participate in strong advocacy for better telecommunications infrastructure including WiFi and cell phone service throughout the Cariboo region to encourage and support home-based businesses and improve communications in times of emergencies.

Opportunities for business growth exist

While the economic stability of the South Cariboo area has been impacted by the 2017 wildfires, opportunities for current and new businesses do exist.

Recommendations to address this issue, the District of 100 Mile House:

• Research chances for local businesses to contribute to suppression activities and get contracts for fire suppression, forest restoration and nature rehabilitation services with the BC Wildfire Service.

• Research an Agri-food pilot program to find opportunities for the development of local greenhouse related businesses with the agricultural industry.

• Update the District of 100 Mile House Investment Ready Community Profile to give current data and described investment advantages.

“The South Cariboo Recovery Plan documents the needs and steps forward for the businesses and residents of the South Cariboo; this plan connects well with the Cariboo Regional District’s (CRD) overarching recovery strategy and we look forward to working with the District of 100 Mile House on continued recovery efforts in the South Cariboo,” said CRD chair Margo Wagner.

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