Premier John Horgan visited the Ashcroft area on August 28. It was his first visit to the region since the wildfire season began on July 7.
B.C.’s premier had stopped by Williams Lake near the end of July as that city’s wildfire season hit its peak, but had yet to visit the site of one of B.C. biggest wildfires.
Horgan and Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson met with Ashcroft Indian Band chief Greg Blain and members of council, spoke with Band members affected by the fire, and had an opportunity to visit the fire-ravaged historic cemetery on the Reserve.
The 175,000 hectare Elephant Hill fire, which started near Ashcroft, has threatened communities from Cache Creek to Clinton, is still only 50 per cent contained.
“I wanted to meet with the Chief, I wanted to meet with Mayor Ranta in Cache Creek, to let people know that the new government is going to be there for them; not just now, when the crisis is happening, but into the future as well. We want to make sure we’re building for next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.
“Here, with the Ashcroft Nation, we see the moving impact of the burial sites being overrun by fire; a dozen homes lost on this small Nation; a significant impact. Boston Flats, just down the road: massive impact. Loon Lake: massive impact. The epicentre of the loss of property is right here, and I think nothing symbolizes that more than the impact this has had on the small Nation of Ashcroft.”
Blain says that as far as he knows, this was the first time any premier had ever visited the Ashcroft Reserve. He said that he was surprised to hear, on August 25, that Horgan and Donaldson would be arriving. “We had a chance to talk to about our issues. It was very positive.”
Asked if the premier made any promises or commitments, Blain laughed and said “Politicians don’t make promises. You know that. He said we have a new government in place; they’ve only been at it for six weeks, so fair enough. I’m optimistic. I guess time will tell us.”
Blain added that he thought the premier felt that what the small community was going through was “overwhelming, with all these issues,” but noted that they also talked about Boston Flats and Loon Lake.
“We’re not the only community that was hit. They need to see all those people, not just us. They need to talk to everybody. That’s what I’m trying to stress.”
Horgan and Donaldson planned to visit Kelowna, which recently saw the Joe Rich fire force 1,000 people to evacuate from their homes in the region. Just over half of those residents were allowed back on Sunday.
Horgan started off his tour with a visit to the Kamloops Provincial Regional Emergency Operation Centre at 10 a.m., followed by a trip to the Cache Creek Resiliency Centre and meetings with the mayor and council of Cache Creek.
WATCH: John Horgan tours fire damaged B.C. interior
Horgan will finish off his trip with an aerial tour of the Philpott fire.