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Officials working out logistics for return to South Cariboo

“We want you home”

A plan to bring South Cariboo residents home is in the works, say Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond and 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall.

“We need to get our citizens back now and that’s our attitude, we need to do it now and we are working really hard to do that,” says 100 Mile Mayor Mitch Campsall, who despite this, admitted it may still take some time before people are able to come home.

The plan, as it stands right now, is to bring all evacuated due to the Gustafsen fire home at the same time, which could provide some challenges logistically, says Richmond.

“Depending on where you were, some places will be more impacted than others so it is going to be very unique,” he says.

The decision to rescind the evacuation order will be a joint decision between BC Wildfire, the District of 100 Mile House, the CRD and the RCMP, but Richmond says that won’t necessarily be tomorrow, or even the end of the week.

Related: CRD and 100 Mile begin evaluating safe return for evacuated residents

Because of the way the fire moved, and where power was cut, residents of the 108 Mile Ranch who lost power for four days, or residents of the 105 where the fire moved through, could face different issues than residents of 100 Mile House.

“We have fridges and freezers that just probably shouldn’t belong. They probably should be taken out, so we have to figure out what to do with those fridges and freezers,” says Richmond. Other issues to home owners could be smoke damage, or melted siding.

“How do we get food back into the community? How do we get a pharmacy back into the community, some sort of medical services back into the community?” says Richmond, identifying other supports the area will need to have in place before residents are allowed back.

“It’s not just, ‘Oh we walked out, we walk back in’.”

A major consideration for Mayor Campsall, is making sure there is more than one way to get the community out if another emergency happens.

“We also need to have two roads that we can get in and out, and we’ve only got the one and it’s the same one that Williams Lake came down,” he says. “When we called it, it was so close to being shut down as well and that’s a danger I just can’t put my citizens in there. We’re looking for their safety. We are working on a second road and it looks really close.”

At a meeting for evacuees in Kamloops on July 17, Interior Health representatives said there also were plans in place for bringing the hospital back.

Richmond cautions that while there is a plan in place, this does not mean that evacuees will be able to return tomorrow, or even by the end of the week and, as Campsall points out, there is always mother nature to contend with.

Related: Gustafsen fire at 35 per cent contained

Richmond asks for patience, saying that the team working in the area are doing their best, but that they are as tired as everyone else is.

Still, Campsall says they want to bring people home.

“I just want you guys home. I really do and Al’s in the same boat. We want you home. We don’t want you out there and we want our businesses back. We can’t take this much longer and I’m one of the businesses that is toughing it,” he says. “But you know what, it’s not my business that I care about. I want the community back working and that’s the main thing. If we can get our community back going that’s the most important thing we can be doing.”

Richmond says that waiting for the BC Wildfire to declare the area safe is only one part of the equation and the CRD will also be looking to the province for assistance when they return.

“To me the immediate disaster is one thing, but the aftermath now is how do we get this so people’s homes are safe again, so it’s home again.”