While some service businesses in Burns Lake saw a spike in sales this summer – propelled by evacuees and wildfire personnel – some specialty retail businesses have reported considerable losses.
According to Randi Amendt, manager of the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce, some specialty retail businesses reported sales to be down by up to 75 per cent compared to last summer.
Not surprisingly, tourism was also affected. Amendt says the number of people who stopped at the Burns Lake Visitor Information Centre decreased in August (881) compared to August 2017 (1172).
Meanwhile some businesses south of Burns Lake are still repairing the damage caused by this year’s devastating wildfire season.
The owners of Nadina Lake Lodge have not hosted any guests since the beginning of August. Their lodge was about two km from the Nadina Lake Fire, which consumed over 86,000 hectares this summer.
They now have their hands full dealing with water damage, which is a result of almost six weeks of sprinkler use, structural damage to their dock, and damage to cabin interiors caused by smoke.
In addition, their main waterline was broken as the result of a chainsaw accident, and they’ve been cleaning up the debris and small trees that have been cut around the perimeter of their lodge.
“None of our damage was directly from fire; nothing burned on our property,” they explained. “It was all indirect.”
Since their normal business operation is for six months of the year, they expect to host guests again in the spring. They said their financial loss “remains to be seen.”
Noralee Resort owners Jim and Bonnie Fehr, on the other hand, consider themselves lucky since their property was not significantly damaged. However, they are also trying to recover their financial loss.
Their resort, located near the west end of Francois Lake, reopened at the end of September after being closed for over five weeks. They say that’s “a long time with no clients” given that August is typically their busiest month.
The Fehrs are now trying to recover part of their financial damage through their insurance broker, but say they’re disappointed that the provincial government has not offered financial assistance to businesses impacted by wildfires.
The Nadina Lake Lodge owners agree, saying that government assistance would make a big difference in the aftermath of the wildfire season.
“It could certainly lessen the burden,” said Brad.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development told Lakes District News that the province is working directly with communities to assess impacts and identify solutions, including those that may be required to assist with economic and business recovery.
Agricultural producers affected by B.C.’s devastating wildfire season are now eligible for financial support from the provincial and federal government. The 2018 Canada-British Columbia Wildfire Recovery Initiative will provide up to $5 million to assist them.