The recent (and ongoing) Elephant Hill wildfire has shown us all where our strengths and weaknesses lie. Hopefully we will all take this opportunity to work individually, collectively, and cooperatively to make the necessary and positive changes for the safety and betterment of all.
On July 18, as chair of Ashcroft Communities in Bloom, I toured our village with the visiting judges. It was understood that for several days after the fire, residents may not have watered as they believed Stage 4 watering restrictions were in effect.
However, these watering restrictions were lifted within days of the fire, and a recent pass through the village showed quite a number of residences with brown lawns, and boulevards with many dry, dead weeds.
As noted at the recent public meeting, these are fire hazards. Dry grass and weeds catch fire and burn very quickly. With the hot, dry, unrelenting heat, we all need to be ever-vigilant about the state of our residences and surrounding grounds.
Likewise, our village needs to ensure that properties within village boundaries that pose a fire hazard are dealt with in a timely and accountable manner.
Let’s all do our part to keep us as safe as possible.
An Open Letter to the residents of Ashcroft and area.
I’m writing this letter on behalf of Interior Health to address concern expressed about our recent closure of the Ashcroft Hospital and Health Centre. As community members are aware, the Elephant Hill wildfire spread rapidly on July 7, resulting in the evacuation of the entire Village of Cache Creek. The fire, while burning away from Ashcroft, had significant consequences for our facility. We had lost power, water, and basic communication capabilities (no phone or Internet). While the facility was equipped with back-up power through generators, the supply was limited.
In addition to the loss of basic infrastructure to run the hospital and health centre, we were also losing staff who were either directly impacted by evacuation orders or could not reach Ashcroft due to highway closures resulting from wildfires.
Given the unprecedented situation we found ourselves in, we made the decision to close the facility. Safety was the overriding reason, as keeping the facility open would have put our staff, our patients, and our frail and elderly clients at Jackson House at potential risk. We appreciate this closure left community residents without readily available access to health care services and regret the impact this had on individuals. At the same time, we are glad that the impact to our facility, and our patients and clients, was limited given the enormity of this year’s wildfire season in B.C.
I’d like to extend my thanks to community members for their understanding, as well as to our staff for their support during such a difficult time. Some worked very hard to move clients to other locations and were also redeployed to these locations to provide ongoing care. This involved great personal sacrifice on their part. Others continued to provide service for community clients remaining in Ashcroft. And behind the scenes, our maintenance staff worked diligently to bring our facility back to full operations so that we could resume service to Ashcroft and surrounding communities.
We know there were challenges at times with timely communication, which was exacerbated by the loss of power and normal communication channels. Interior Health is committed to conducting an operational debrief after the wildfire season is over, to review actions and decisions made during the wildfire response.
Community & Acute Services,
IH West (Interior Health)