The CCRD and the Nuxalk Nation have partnered in their efforts to provide up-to-date and accurate information to Valley residents, especially in times of emergency. The ever-changing wildfire situation on the Chilcotin Plateau and across large regions of the province has created challenges for Valley residents in a variety of ways.
Mail, freight, medical supplies and food are all delivered by truck to the Valley. Mail service ceased on July 5th but has since resumed sporadic service, much of it by air. Food trucks are on a regular schedule but the situation remains volatile, especially across the plateau and around Williams Lake.
The Precipice Fire, closest to the Valley at 52 kilometres east, is sitting at 2600 hectares and still remains “out of control.” It has resulted in an evacuation order of homesteads in the area, although those residents have chosen not to leave and have instead stayed behind to help firefighters in their efforts.
The very real possibility of an evacuation of Anahim and Nimpo Lake residents to the Bella Coola Valley raised some serious questions about how the community could deal with a potential influx of over 1000 people; about half of the general population already living here.
Alison Sayers, Chair of the Central Coast Regional District, and Wally Webber, Chief Councillor of the Nuxalk Nation, were invited by the Coastal Fire Centre to view the Precipice Fire by air last weekend.
“It really changed my perspective on it,” Sayers shared with CMNews. “It’s really difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend what these firefighters are up against without viewing the situation firsthand.”
Sayers said the extremely rugged terrain, coupled with the constantly changing weather, has made the fire exceptionally difficult to fight and to predict what might happen next.
“There are so many variables,” she said. “I was really impressed with the skills and coordination of the fire crews after seeing what they are up against.”
In response to the current situation the Bella Coola Valley – Nuxalk Nation Coordinated Information Bulletin Page was created on Facebook last week and is now updated daily.
Sayers said coordination between the two governments, the CCRD and the Nuxalk Nation, is essential in times of emergency to ensure residents get accurate and timely information.
“Under the Emergency Program Act, which is provincial legislation, the CCRD must establish and maintain an emergency management plans and services,” Sayers explained. “Those who are affected by these situations are able to come to the CCRD office and access vouchers for food and essential services, as well as receive information about the situation.”
While there is no legislation or requirement for the two governments to act together, Sayers said it simply makes sense.
“We [the CCRD and Nuxalk Nation] want to do this together because we need to be integrated for it to work,” she said. “People want to see us working together and I think the public feels much better when we are, especially in times of a potential crisis.”
A Town Hall-style meeting was held and despite the late notice Sayers said about 80 people attended, resulting in a lively and engaging discussion about how to deal with emergency situations, potential evacuations and evacuees, and the role of first responders.
Sayers said that the CCRD has issued a local state of emergency and has no plans to lift it until things calm down.
“We are planning to keep that in place so that we can access the funds to help people who need it,” she said.
For more updates on the current situation you can check the new Facebook page entitled Bella Coola Valley – Nuxalk Nation Coordinated Information Bulletin, call the Nuxalk Nation Band Office at 250 799 5613 or the CCCRD at 250 799 5291.