B.C. wildfires: More than 160 structures lost, damaged in the Shuswap


The massive Bush Creek East wildfire burning in B.C.’s Shuswap has destroyed or damaged at least 168 structures, according to an incomplete survey of impacted communities.


Officials with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District provided the long-awaited update on the wildfire’s destruction during a Friday briefing, noting that members of Canada Task Force 1 have only been able to conduct rapid damage assessments in areas deemed safe for entry.


“Please be aware there are still active wildfires in the region where property assessments could not be carried out,” said Erick Thompson, public information officer for the CSRD.


As of Friday afternoon, crews have counted 131 structures lost to the wildfire and 37 others that sustained damage.


Officials promised area residents would be able to check the status of their properties by inputting their addresses into the regional district’s website, but said the service would not be available until later in the day.


“The CSRD is committed to supporting the community members during this very challenging time, and we’ll be individually contacting property owners to facilitate and assist you,” Thompson added.


While many residents are facing heartbreaking news, officials also noted that Canada Task Force 1 and RCMP officers have found no evidence anyone died because of the Bush Creek East blaze.


“We’ve heard over the past days how intense this fire behaviour was, so we’re all very grateful that no lives appear to have been lost,” said Tracy Hughes of the CSRD.


Meanwhile, firefighters are still battling back the 41,000-hectare blaze. While conditions have eased over recent days due to cooler temperatures and some rainfall, the B.C. Wildfire Service still had Bush Creek East classified as “out of control” Friday.


And even though the fire threat has decreased in some neighbourhoods, fire information officer Mike McCulley said there are “many other hazards on the land after a wildfire” that must be addressed before evacuation orders can be lifted, including downed power lines and toxins from burned chemicals.


“There’s danger trees that need to managed and dealt with,” McCulley added. “And danger trees, if you’ve been paying attention this year, are fatal.”


Last month, 19-year-old firefighter Devyn Gale was killed by a falling tree while working near Revelstoke, where she grew up. 


The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said crews have been working to clear hazards from roadways in the Shuswap region, and early on Friday reopened Highway 1 between Chase and Sorrento. The route had been closed since Aug. 18.


On Wednesday night, an RCMP roadblock on that stretch of Highway 1, which was set up to prevent area residents from accessing evacuation areas in the North Shuswap, was the scene of confrontation organized by a group called the “Convoy of Truth and Freedom.”¬†


The group said it wanted to dismantle the RCMP blockade to deliver supplies to locals defying evacuation orders to protect their homes, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

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