RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces gathered at the Resiliency Centre at Boitanio Mall after taking down evacuation check points throughout Williams Lake and area Thursday mid-morning. (Angie Mindus photos)

BREAKING: Evacuation order lifted for Williams Lake

City, CRD and WLIB make joint announcement at Kiwanis Park

Thousands of Williams Lake and area residents can pack their bags and come home.

Officials from the City of Williams Lake, Cariboo Regional District and Williams Lake Indian Band made the announcement that several of the area’s evacuation orders due to wildfire in the City of Williams Lake, Sugarcane and surrounding areas in the Cariboo Regional District have been rescinded, effective immediately (Thursday, July 27.)

Speakers at Thursday’s press conference included mayor Walt Cobb, regional district chair Al Richmond, band councillor Willie Sellars, BC Wildfire Service members Krista Dunleavey and Mark Hamm, RCMP inspector Jeff Pelley, Emergency Support Services’s Dave Dickson, MLA Donna Barnett and MP Todd Doherty.

“It is my pleasure to welcome you home,” said mayor Walt Cobb.

‘The most important consideration before we did this was, of course, your safety. Before deciding to return, and I cannot emphasize this enough, I encourage you to consider that wildfire activity continues in the area, air quality remains poor and the area still will remain on evacuation alert.

“You still need to be prepared to leave on short notice. The wildfires near our community are not 100 per cent contained and due to the changing weather conditions and evacuation could happen and the alert will remain in place.”

The areas that have been changed from an evacuation order to an evacuation alert include:

  • The City of Williams Lake;
  • Sugarcane;
  • 150 Mile House;
  • Fox Mountain;
  • Esler;
  • Pine Valley; and
  • Springhouse (see map at link below for details about all CRD areas surrounding Williams Lake).

Due to ongoing wildfire operations, evacuation orders will remain in place for the following areas:

  • areas north and south of Mountain House Road, including Wildwood;
  • the Spokin Lake area;
  • areas along Soda Creek Road and Frizzi Road;
  • Soda Creek First Nation; and
  • areas in the Chilcotin.

See an overview map here.

Many rural areas surrounding Williams Lake have been on an evacuation order since July 7, while city residents were given the order to evacuate following the second firestorm which occurred July 15.

Since the area remains on evacuation alert, residents must be prepared in case the area receives a future evacuation order on short notice. Local governments may not have time to go door to door should a new evacuation order be issued.

It is also important to note that air quality remains poor as a result of smoke from nearby fire activity. Those with respiratory issues, small children and the elderly should consider this before they choose to return to the area.

Further, services such as grocery and health care may be limited for some time. Anyone choosing to return to the area should ensure that they return with basic necessities including food and prescriptions for up to seven days as well as a full tank of gas.

Both the south and north routes into Williams Lake along Highway 97 are open. Please watch for livestock and wildlife on roads around Williams Lake as many fences have burned in the area.

Within 48 hours, arrangements to return home will be made for those who were evacuated from the community via bus. Sign up for these services at your closest ESS reception centre or by calling 1-800-585-9559.

A resiliency centre will be available in Williams Lake to provide information and programs of support for wildfire evacuees. Read more here.

Since the area remains on evacuation alert, residents should remain prepared for an evacuation by:

  • Having a plan to transport all family members or co-workers outside the area, should the area be brought back under evacuation order.
  • Keeping essential items readily available for a quick departure, including medications, eyeglasses, valuable papers (i.e. insurance), immediate care needs for dependants and, if you choose, keepsakes (photographs, etc).
  • Ensuring that any dependents are prepared for departure.
  • Ensuring that pets and livestock remain in a safe area.
  • Ensuring that you have accommodation options for your family, if possible. A Reception Centre will be made available again if required.
  • Monitoring reliable news sources for evacuation order information. Further information will be issued as it becomes available.

For more past stories on the firestorm in William Lake, click here.

More to come.