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Burns Lake councillor defends residents who ignored evacuation orders

“They are not hindering wildfire efforts”

Burns Lake councillor Charlie Rensby is defending residents south of Burns Lake who chose not to abide by evacuation orders this summer.

In a letter sent to B.C. Premier John Horgan, Rensby says locals who refuse to leave are “not hindering wildfire efforts.”

“As you are aware, we have been devastated by fires this year and they have taken their toll,” writes Rensby. “My community is going through hell right now, but we are resilient and will make it until fall.”

According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, remaining in an area under an evacuation order can impede their ability to combat fires, as firefighters may be forced to stop certain suppression activity to not put people who have stayed behind in further danger.

READ MORE: Some residents south of Burns Lake refuse to evacuate

READ MORE: Residents south of Burns Lake who chose not to evacuate share their stories

Catherine Van Tine Marcinek, one of the Southside residents who chose to stay behind to protect their properties and livelihoods, says Southsiders have made a big difference combating the fires.

“Our men and our boys are fighting these fires… and doing an amazing job,” she told Lakes District News last month. “They are the ones putting out these fires.”

Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach said Rensby’s letter was not presented to council for their endorsement.

Horgan met with local leaders, First Nations chiefs and first responders at the Burns Lake Fire Camp on Aug. 31 to discuss wildfire response.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Corrina Leween told Horgan that First Nations have “pulled through to set the systems up that were not in place by the provincial government.”

Horgan responded by saying the province needs to deploy more resources to the area and have more “people on the ground,” and that he would “do his best to make that happen.”

READ MORE: First Nations chiefs hold B.C. premier accountable in Burns Lake