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North Shuswap to receive supplies, collaboration with wildfire crews still a goal

‘We’re still here to work with BCWS and CSRD – the goal is to put out the damned fire’
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This map shows the approximate perimeter of the Bush Creek East wildfire as of Thursday morning, Aug. 24, 2023. (BC Wildfire Service image)

While BC Wildfire Service crews have shifted focus to other areas of the Bush Creek East blaze, Jay Simpsons says efforts continue towards collaboration in the North Shuswap.

In a Thursday morning update, the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) said crews would be focusing on the Little Shuswap Lake area as well as Loakin Valley and Turtle Valley.

“As we engage with our partners at the RCMP and CSRD (Columbia Shuswap Regional District) we will determine operational activities throughout the rest of today, tomorrow, and going forward. The top priority of our response is to keep people safe,” said the BC Wildfire Service.

The evening prior, the BCWS shared and quickly removed a social media post stating in response to safety concerns, its unit crews, heavy equipment operators and structural firefighters would be reassigned from the North Shuswap to other areas of the Bush Creek East and Rossmore Lake wildfires. This followed an earlier social media post by a “Convoy of Truth and Freedom,” which called for a gathering at 6 p.m. at the Shuswap Community Centre parking lot that would leave promptly at 6:20 p.m., travelling down the Trans-Canada Highway to Sorrento and into the evacuation order area.

“It appeared that the intentions of those involved were to overwhelm the police roadblock and gain access into the area…,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. James Grandy in a media release. “The group later challenged the BC RCMP officers stationed at the roadblock into the area currently under order.”

Simpson, the North Shuswap’s electoral area director with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, was busy Thursday morning letting people know the convoy didn’t jeopardize a collaborative effort with BCWS, he and others who have defied the evacuation order, to fight fires in Lee Creek, Scotch Creek and Celista, have been working towards.

Read more: RCMP condemn self-declared convoy that wanted past Shuswap wildfire blockade

Read more: Bush Creek East wildfire in Shuswap could see large increase when smoke clears

“We’re still here to work with BCWS and CSRD – the goal is to put out the damned fire,” said Simpson, adding he’s spoken with BCWS the evening prior as well as that morning to let them know “in no way, shape or form does that convoy represent anything to do with the North Shuswap.”

“This morning and as far as I know, everything is kind of business as usual, and I recognize they have priorities because of how the fire rose in areas and then rose in other areas, and if they pull their people out of here, it’s not because they are worried about us beating up on them, it’s because Sorrento needs it more right now. I’m good with all that and I think we haven’t lost a step in this scenario.”

BCWS information officer Forrest Tower also commented Thursday morning on that relationship with those still working on the fires in the North Shuswap.

“The incident management team, BC Wildfire Service, we are continuing to move forward in a collaborative way in, involving community, engaging in dialogue in terms of collaborative work happening in North Shuswap,” said Tower.

Regarding the convoy, Simpson said concerns Wednesday night that local fire departments were told to “stand down and take their equipment back to their homes and protect their equipment – and that was directly due to the convoy scenario.” But he said firefighters were once again busy Thursday morning.

“At least one crew from Anglemont was working with our Celista community to put out a tire fire up in Celista somewhere, so things are working as they should and I’m very happy to see there was no lasting problem related to that convoy,” said Simpson. “We’re all working in the same direction for the same goals…”

HE was expecting shipments of needed supplies for communities east of the evacuation order area, including St. Ives and Anglemont.

“The CSRD now has a pipeline for meds, because people were running out of prescriptions and things like that,” said Simpson, adding the shipments wouldn’t be stopping in the order areas. He said the challenge of getting needed supplies to citizens still in Celista, Lee Creek and Scotch Creek will likely remain until the evacuation order is downgraded or lifted.

“They’ve got to make sure BC Hydro manages to light up some communities, they’ve got to make sure some burnt-up houses haven’t got a live wire somewhere,” said Simpson, detailing some of the work needed still before the evacuation order can be lifted. Regarding power restoration, he said BC Hydro has been working for the past couple of days to set up new poles.

“I have kind of a preliminary indication that if they get another eight to 10 poles up in Scotch Creek they can start to light up some of the communities,” said Simpson. “I’m not sure how accurate that is. I’m waiting for some information back from a BC Hydro contact. I mean, that would be really good news for the community, it would be kind of a sign that things will return to a new normal in the not-too-distant future.”

As of Thursday, the Bush Creek East fire was believed to be over 43,000 hectares in size.

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