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October 27, 2017 3:26 pm

Cariboo – On the Road to Recovery

Thursday, September 21, 2017 @ 5:59 AM

Williams Lake, B.C. – Yesterday,  the  Cariboo Regional District dismantled its Emergency Operations Centre  which has been in  operation since the  wildfires  started to  roar through the region in early July  now   the  focus  turns to  helping the region  rebuild.

Regional District Chair Al Richmond  says  while the immediate sense of urgency  has passed,  the path  ahead  is  not going to be an easy one “The challenge now is, the bigger job has begun, the recovery piece to  look at our needs and  see what we will need to  do to  rebrand  or refocus  the Cariboo-Chilcotin areas , our communities  with respect to the loss of fibre we’ve had,  with respect to  the devastation  to our tourism industry.  What does this mean long term for us?” He says  long term strategies need to be developed  in terms of grass lands  recovery  for  agriculture “We have to find a way  to find some solutions to find a way to move through recovery.”

Richmond   says the Province has agreed  to the hiring of recovery officers  who will help the communities  along this path “But  that’s just the beginning” says Richmond “It’s going to be  asking  the communities to come up with ideas on what we can do.  It’s going to be trying to get some of our projects that  we need to move  forward,  such as our hospital in  Williams Lake,  and the E.R. in Quesnel, to  show folks that  we are moving ahead,  that we are still a region and the Government has   committed  to working  through this with us.”

There is no  word yet  says  Richmond,  on just  how much money may be needed  to  assist the region “That’s the needs assessment  we are trying to get on right now,  so  we have a  good idea from a provincial point of  view  on what is the loss from a fibre  that’s been damaged, charred burned,  destroyed  or compromised mean to us in the short , mid-term  timber supply.  What’s the long term  view of the forest industry in the Cariboo Chilcotin. ”  He says there needs to be discussion on changing forest practices  to reduce  the fuel  that is on the forest floor “These fires are not a result of something that happened over  one or two or three  years,  these are  practices that have been in place for 20 years or more.”

He says  Regional District  leaders have not yet had any  discussions with  the Federal Government “It’s  disappointing,  we haven’t had a meeting with the Feds yet, but we need to quantify with the Province  and we’ve been working  very closely with  the Provincial Government.”

Richmond says members of the provincial Government Cabinet have been invited to come to the Cariboo to meet  with  those directly impacted.  There are plans to have discussions with  Provincial  Government  representatives next week at the Union of B.C. Municipalities  annual convention but Richmond says that’s not enough “The short meetings we have will not afford us enough time to talk about our concerns.”  He  is hopeful members of Cabinet will   schedule meetings in the Cariboo  in November.

“We need to look at diversifying our economy, looking at some projects that are out there that might help  develop the economy  and moving some of those projects forward with the Region as a whole.”

Richmond says  the focus has changed from  worrying about  if someone  is going to lose their home, to being  worried about their livelihood ”  This isn’t going to be an easy road,  but   you know  we are a resource based community and as I have said many times,  our   strongest and most valuable resources are people and we depend on our  people for ideas, and we  depend on our people for support and when the  going gets tough,  our people can get going.”


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