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Columbia-Shuswap officials call for review of B.C.’s wildfire response

The CSRD supported the mayor of Barriere’s call on the provincial government
A structure in the Scotch Creek area of the Shuswap that was destroyed by the Lower East Adams Lake wildfire in August 2023.

The Columbia-Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board is unanimously in favour of supporting the mayor of Barriere’s call for the provincial government to complete a review of the 2023 fire season.

CSRD board chair Kevin Flynn said the board voted in favour of calling for a review similar to the one which was conducted following the 2003 wildfire season.

“I fully support this motion and it is already something requested verbally,” Flynn said. “When emotions are not so high, we need to talk about improvements and the things that were done right.”

More than 130 structures within the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District are believed to have been lost to the Bush Creek East wildfire. The blaze tore through the North Shuswap last month and is now an estimated 43,380 hectares in size and still burning out of control.

Some residents defied a CSRD evacuation order put in place on Aug. 18, after the wildfire spread into the communities of Lee Creek, Scotch Creek and Celista.

“I’m the epitome of civil disobedience right now because I did not follow the order to depart … I stayed behind and fought the fires to save my home, my neighbours, my community …,” said Jay Simpson the Electoral Area F director, on Aug. 23. He said he was frustrated that authorities were preventing items like bottled water, food and fuel for generators from reaching citizens fighting fires in the evacuation order areas.

However, as days progressed, the BC Wildfire stated it was “moving forward in a collaborative way in, involving the community, engaging in dialogue in terms of collaborative work happening in North Shuswap.”

About 25 locals began training with the BC Wildfire Service at the end of August. The one-day intensive course would give them the S100 certification, which meant they could work for BCWS and be covered by insurance/liability.

Now, with the CSRD board backing Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer’s call for a review, the issue will be taking place among representatives of the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) and is intended to be a topic brought up at this week’s Union of BC Municipalities annual convention in Vancouver this week.

“I don’t know if you can ask for more. It seems like Mayor Stamer’s got it pretty well covered,” Simpson said. “It’s brilliant, we need it and certainly I’m very much in favour.”