Williams Lake Seeking Normalcy
Williams Lake, B.C. – Five-and-a-half weeks removed from their wildfire induced evacuation order and things are slowly to return to normal in Williams Lake.
The latest sign was the City’s move to reopen parks and trails within City limits – including the ever-popular Scout Island (though not the River Valley yet) – at noon yesterday.
“Yes, it is. With the reports we got from the fire centre last night (Monday night) that there’s a number of alerts that have been lifted and the fire hazard isn’t extreme anymore,” says Mayor Walt Cobb. “It’s moderate to high, so that gave us the opportunity to get as close to normal as we can.”
He says the spirits of the town’s folk have also risen after the evacuation alert was lifted last week.
“There’s s till a bit of apprehension but I think once we lifted the alert we can relax. After the alert was lifted, someone said that that’s the best night’s sleep they’ve had for days,” he says.
But Cobb notes that’s not to say there aren’t any challenges moving forward – including getting staff back.
“I’ve heard from a couple of businesses that they can’t hire staff,” he says. “People that have left for whatever reason. Especially when it comes to the entry-level jobs like restaurants and Walmart – the people left – they had to find work so they found jobs and they’re not coming home. So, that was a bit of a surprise to me.”
And then there’s the long-term effects this devastating wildfire season will likely have.
“When you look at the forest industry, particularly with the amount of timber that’s burned. Things like that – the ranchers, the lodge owners – things aren’t returning to normal tomorrow, it’s going to be a couple of years. We’ve already arranged for meetings with the different ministers in Victoria for help.”
As for the start of school in September, the Cariboo-Chilcotin School District said last week that schools will remain closed if they are under an evacuation order or alert.
The District also said school busses will not operate in, or through, areas that are under evacuation order or alert.
A list of schools and scheduled opening dates will be available starting today (for more go to their website: www.sd27.bc.ca).
As for City business, Cobb says the City hosted its first council meeting since the wildfire crisis began earlier this month and a committee of the whole meeting last night. All positive signs.
“So, yeah, we’re getting back to normal but the pressure is still back on to get caught up now. But I think the fire problem is pretty much gone for us.”