High tension in Kamloops Evacuation Centre -July 12 wildfire update

Emergency Social Services Volunteers greet evacuees at Thompson Rivers University. Photo SPIN.

“Of around 60 trailers at Boston Flats maybe two are salvageable, the rest are toasted.”

Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta described the devastation to his town to a group of evacuees in Kamloops on Tuesday night.

Tension in at the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Grand Hall was high as evacuees wait to be able to return to their homes in the Ashcroft and Cache Creek areas.

Some joked to relieve the tension, asking firefighters to water gardens “on their way through” but most were somber and looking for more information.

Containment information coming soon:

The July 6 fire that caused their evacuation has now split in two, on the east and west sides of the village of Cache Creek. The total size of both is mapped at 10,304 hectares.

There is still no answer to the question on everyone’s mind, when can they return home? After pressure from evacuees during the July 11 meeting the fire’s incident commander Reg Trapp only said it wouldn’t be by Friday.

Red Cross are active in the centres to assist evacuees. Photo SPIN.

“You won’t be back tomorrow,” he said. “I don’t want to give any kind of false hope.”

Trapp was able to provide some positive news about bringing the blaze under control. He said some areas on the border of Cache Creek with light fuel such as grass and sage are safely extinguished. He also said the fire on one side of the village came close to homes but hasn’t moved in around three days.

The other side is more challenging for crews. Trapp said sudden northwest winds and daily southwest winds that pick up to 20 or 30 km/h winds in the evenings have made it difficult to control.

Trapp said he expects to be able to give information on containment soon, but wanted to reach a few milestones before “jinxing” himself.

RCMP working to protect homes

The RCMP was also represented at both the media briefing and evacuee meeting by inspector Sunny Parmar of the Kamloops detachment.

A group sings outside the Kamloops evacuation centre. Photo SPIN.

Parmar said his teams have been working to protect communities from potential criminals taking advantage of empty homes. He also said despite having to block roads into the community during the evacuation order, officers have worked with residents needing access for medicine and pets.

“We gave escorts for people who live in the north of Cache Creek to get to Kamloops and for compassionate reasons,” Parmar said, insisting no one is allowed to go into or through the area without an escort.

Over 2,300 evacuees registered in area

Ranta said between three evacuation centres in the TNRD in Kamloops, Clearwater and Barriere a total of 2,366 evacuees have registered. The majority, 2,200, have come to Kamloops where Emergency Social Services (ESS) are set up at TRU.

Some have come to Sun Peaks, where at least 75 rooms have been filled. All part of the total of 14,000 people evacuated so far.

Holly the dog and her family were evacuated to Kamloops. Photo SPIN.

Arjun Singh, Kamloops’ deputy mayor, said even though Kamloops has more space to take evacuees they are trying to save space for potential evacuees should more fires begin closer to the city.

Transportation minister Todd Stone, who declared a provincial state of emergency on July 7 for the first time since 2003, said work from crews, cities and volunteers has been crucial.

“People in Kamloops are punching above their weight with donations and volunteering,” he said.

He also said the transition of provincial power from the BC Liberals to the BC NDP next week will be “seamless” as premier designate John Horgan and incoming officials have been involved in the fire response since they began.

“That’s a key message that British Columbians need to know their government has got their back and we’re working as hard as we can to throw everything at this.”