Life ‘Slowly’ Returning to Normal in Williams Lake
Williams Lake, B.C. – The City of Williams Lake may be surrounded by wildfires, be under an evacuation alert, and be facing the hottest month left in the fire season, but the mayor says things are “slowly” returning to normal there.
“Slowly. I think they figure maybe about 60 per cent of the people have come back. There’s still some that haven’t and there’s still a few businesses that aren’t open yet because some of the them are still in evacuation areas,” says Walt Cobb.
“There’s quite a few people in town now and there’s traffic around. It’s not so scary looking like it was when nobody was here.”
He adds the vibe of those who’ve returned to town (following the 12-day evacuation) has been “really positive.”
“I drop in at the centres – the Donation Centre and the Resiliency Centre – and the grocery store everyday and everybody’s happy to be home,” says Cobb.
“We still have to be cautious and we have to be ready – because this is fire season and you never know – but the fires have not moved closer to the city at this stage of the game anyway.”
Once the fire threat subsides, he says his community will require a lot of financial assistance.
“A lot of those fires have affected the lodges and the people out west that depend on tourism and some of those lodges are gone and you can’t get out there anyways,” says Cobb.
“And of course, that affects us in town too because we’re the service centre. So, we’re not an island on our own here. We’re a bigger community and we all depend on each other and it’s going to be awhile before we get over this.”
He added many residents are also facing challenges being off work so long.
“I’m told the banks – they’re dealing with mortgage companies – and have made arrangements for people and they’re apparently up at the Resiliency Centre,” says Cobb.
“There’s EI (employment insurance) too. I mean it isn’t everything but it’s better than nothing and I’m told anybody that was evacuated and had to leave work – they only have to wait a week for it rather than the usual waiting time.”
He notes he’s expecting financial assistance from senior levels of government too.
“Yes. We just have to figure out what that looks like. We seem to be able to give money to all other counties and what not when they have disasters. So, maybe we need to look at that for ourselves.”