Regional District of Bulkley Nechako chair Bill Miller spoke at length of the commitment of local people and those from the outside who are fighting and dealing with the wildfires when he and other officials provided a briefing at a public meeting Aug. 16.
“This fire season is completely unprecedented for our area,” Miller told the audience.
And in struggling to keep his emotions in check, Miller acknowledged that people are struggling.
But he spoke of the response of locals who are showing their appreciation to those coming from the outside to help out.
Miller said he was inspired by the efforts he’s witnessed.
“That’s what’s going to get us through this thing and that’s what’s going to take us through this unprecedented event and take us out the other side,” Miller said of how everyone is responding to the situation.
The chair also described how quickly and under challenging circumstances firefighters have been responding to fires in the area, particularly during a period of lightning strikes.
“It was like playing Whack a Mole,” said Miller in how firefighters would extinguish one small blaze only to have others pop up or have fires they thought were extinguished spring to life again.
BC Wildfire Service official Mitch Pence told the audience that the first priority is public safety, followed by structure protection.
He also commended the assistance of local industry in providing equipment when and where needed.
“If we wouldn’t have industry helping us out, we wouldn’t have a hope,” Pence said.
He also acknowledged the strain on government resources in dealing with the scope of the wildfires in the area.
“I’ll be honest, we’re running out of stuff,” Pence said.
Also speaking was a senior RCMP officer from Prince Rupert, sent to Burns Lake to act as an incident commander.
“There’s no discretion for us to put people at risk,” said Brian Donaldson of checkpoints manned by RCMP officers at various locations around areas which have been evacuated.
He did acknowledge that people may be frustrated in not being able to return to homes and property to feed and water livestock.
“What you need to do is contact the regional district to get a permit to go in,” he said of those wishing to return home briefly.
Donaldson said 40 RCMP officers from all over the province and Alberta are in Burns Lake to help out.
And he thanked people who have been providing meals and refreshments to officers at the checkpoints, noting that some of those checkpoints are in isolated areas.
“I’m really impressed with how this community has pulled together,” said Donaldson.