B.C. wildfire blockade protest doesn’t represent Shuswap locals: official

B.C. Premier David Eby toured some Interior communities that have been impacted by wildfires, facing questions from locals about firefighting efforts on the ground.

By Hana Mae Nassar, Martin MacMahon, and Cole Schisler

A regional director for the North Shuswap is condemning a convoy that attempted to get through an RCMP wildfire blockade Wednesday night, saying the protest doesn’t represent his community.

Jay Simpson, who represents the region at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, says tensions started last Friday, as flames moved closer to the community.

“We didn’t see a significant presence of wildfire fighters here to help us. So we were evacuated the day before, I guess, and certainly, there was a good contingent of the community that stayed behind — I’m guessing roughly 300 out of our 3,200 normal population,” he told CityNews Thursday afternoon.

Related articles: 

But he explains the firefighters were often around — just not near the community itself. This, Simpson says, meant “a number of well-trained people” and local firefighters in the area took matters into their own hands.

“It was scary, it was dangerous, it was all those things you think about as fighting a raging wildfire that’s coming through your community,” Simpson added, noting tension continued to grow.

The regional director admits in the first few days, officials were able to move resources around. However, as the days progressed and road blocks being set up by Mounties to ensure people were staying out of evacuation zones, challenges — including access to supplies — grew.

On Thursday, the RCMP released an update that it was increasing police presence after “a confrontation” at its road block in the North Shuswap, as well as reports of “threats of violence” directed at emergency personnel.

Simpson is stressing that the convoy at the centre of these confrontations doesn’t represent the people living in his district or those who’ve stayed behind to fight the fire.

“We wanted to make sure that we made it clear that we didn’t have any involvement with that group and we need BC Wildfire here,” the North Shuswap regional director explained.

“It certainly has opened my eyes to A) the power of social media and B) the drawbacks of being painted by the actions of other groups who are purporting to do things for our good but really aren’t helping in the least.”

He also communicated that with the BC Wildfire Service, noting its resources were back on the ground Thursday.

BC Wildfire Service to train Shuswap locals in evacuation zone: regional director

As some individuals continue to remain in the evacuation zone, Simpson says efforts to get them trained properly are in the works.

He tells CityNews the relationship with the BC Wildfire Service is improving, adding it will be providing fire training to 30 or so locals in the wildfire zone over the weekend.

The training, he explains, will allow the community members to “go out and work with” BC Wildfire Service members, and “help them in safe situations” for their level.

Simpson says the true locals of his community help BC Wildfire Service members in their own way, by “being the eyes and ears on the ground.”

“BC Wildfire is stretched so thin throughout the province, they don’t have the personnel that they need to fight our fire effectively, or Kelowna, or Kamloops, or wherever it is. They’re just stretched so thin,” he said.

Going forward, Simpson says he’d like to see better communication from officials to avoid any misunderstandings.

He also says the region realizes more preparation is needed, with education and training also key parts of this.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today