Cariboo – On the Road to Recovery
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.”