Highway 1 looking east toward the junction with Highway 97C on July 7. The fire is still only 30 per cent contained. Matti J. Lagerborn

Elephant Hill wildfire still only 30 per cent contained

The fire has grown to more than 61,000 hectares, as crews try to create burn offs and fire breaks.

The Elephant Hill fire, which started on the evening of Thursday, July 6 south of Ashcroft, had (as of the time of writing on July 25) spread to cover more than 61,000 hectares, and was 30 per cent contained, according to the BC Wildfire Service (http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status).

On July 21, Evacuation Orders were changed to Evacuation Alerts for many properties immediately adjacent to Highway 97 between Cache Creek and Clinton, meaning Highway 97 was once more open to all traffic between Cache Creek and the junction with Highway 24. Highway 99 between Lillooet and the junction with Highway 97 was also re-opened.

As at the time of writing, Evacuation Orders remain in place for properties in and around Back Valley Road, 16 Mile, Scottie Creek, Hihium Lake, and Loon Lake, while Evacuation Alerts were still in place for the Village of Clinton and some properties to the east of Cache Creek along Highway 1 (Thompson Valley Estates). Go to www.tnrd.ca for updates on all Evacuation Orders and Alerts.

The Esso Travel Centre at Highway 1 and Cornwall Road was open again as of Friday, July 21. The Tim Horton’s at the site was expected to re-open on Tuesday, July 25. Between the two, it means that 40 employees—some of whom lost their houses in the fire—were able to return to work. Cornwall Road through the Reserve from Ashcroft to Highway 1 was also reopened to traffic on July 22, but access to the Reserve itself—which as of the time of writing is still under Evacuation Order—is limited.

An Emergency Social Services centre at the River Inn continues to be open daily until 4 p.m., and offers food, clothing, household items, toiletries, and more for all area residents who were evacuated or who lost their homes. The Ashcroft Indian Band also continues to have an Emergency Operations Centre office on Railway Avenue beside Fields, where Ashcroft Indian Band members can go for information, support, and access to services.

Numerous generous donations of food, water, cleaning supplies, clothing, household items, and more flooded into the area after the fire, and helped relieve the need of many. The supply centre that was set up at the Ashcroft Community Hall on July 12 closed as of July 21. Some of the supplies were taken to communities to the north, and to the fire crews at Loon Lake; the remaining supplies have been taken to the Elizabeth Fry Society office at 601 Bancroft Street in Ashcroft, where a supply centre will continue to operate for when residents of Back Valley Road, 16 Mile, Scottie Creek, and other local areas who are still under evacuation order are able to return. Those who have yet to return will find assistance waiting when they do.

Anyone who would like to provide more assistance should consider making a cash donation to assist people and organisations. Here are a few suggestions:

Boston Flats: An account has been set up at Interior Savings Credit Union for people to donate to assist those who lost their homes and had no insurance. Donations can be made at any ISCU branch; use account # 963728.

Ashcroft Indian Band: An account has been set up at the Royal Bank of Canada to assist residents of the Ashcroft Reserve who lost their homes. Donations can be made at any RBC branch; use account # 02320-003-1027358 (AIB Fire Donation). Cheques and cash can also be dropped off at the AIB Emergency Operations Centre on Railway Avenue in Ashcroft beside Fields.

Fire departments: The firefighters in Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Loon Lake worked tirelessly to protect their communities; and the fire department at Loon Lake has lost its fire hall. Consider a donation to one of these departments, to show your appreciation for the hard work of our volunteer firefighters.

Royal Canadian Legion: Members of RCL Branch #113 (Ashcroft) provided two meals a day for more than a week to the firefighters, Telus and Hydro crews, and other volunteers. Consider a cash donation to the Legion, to help them re-stock.