Greg Blain, chief of the Ashcroft Indian Band, has confirmed that nine single-family homes and a triplex on the reserve, as well as two buildings at the maintenance yard and all the equipment inside, were destroyed in the fire that started just south of Ashcroft late on Thursday, July 6. The reserve has been under evacuation order since July 7.
The Esso Travel Centre was not damaged, nor were the band office and health centre. Cornwall Road through the reserve remains closed as of the time of going to press.
Blain says that reports of looting and horse-stealing on the reserve are unfounded. “There has been no looting, no doors kicked in. Everything is fine,” he says. “All the horses were captured and brought to safety, and are being vet-checked.”
Many of the residents have not been able to get back in to see the reserve, with people evacuated to Sun Peaks, Kamloops, Ashcroft, and other locations.
Blain urges anyone who lost their home to secure a place to live once they return to the area as soon as they can, given the lack of rental accommodation. “Secure somewhere to live, then sort out the details.”
An Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been set up for all evacuated Ashcroft Indian Band members beside the Fields store on Railway Avenue in Ashcroft. The EOC is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week, and can be contacted by phone at 1-778-257-2762.
It is not a place where people can register for assistance, but staff can offer services, direct people where to get assistance, tell them where they can get supplies, and give them contact information for such things as Employment Insurance. The EOC is also keeping Band members updated on things such as phone, cell, and water service on the reserve.
A supply centre for all area residents—not just Band members—affected by the fire has been set up at the River Inn, and operates Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Clothing, shoes, bags of toiletries supplied by London Drugs, pet food, some household goods, and more is available free for anyone in need.
Jodene Blain, the Ashcroft Indian Band administrator, says they have had an amazing number of donations at the supply centre, but they are now full to capacity. “We’re good,” she says. However, she notes that many of the houses that were lost were owned by the Band and had no contents insurance, and residents will be needing to replace furniture, bedding, and everything else.
The Band has set up an account with the Royal Bank of Canada for anyone who would like to donate to assist those who lost their homes and all their possessions. You can donate at any RBC branch, using account number 02320-003-1027358 (AIB Fire Donation). Donations—cash or cheques—can also be dropped off at the EOC on Railway Avenue.
Jodene Blain says that AIB staff have been working non-stop since the fire, and that they are now hoping to get some of the employees from the Esso Travel Centre and Tim Horton’s in to help out. “We’re getting it done.”