Year in Review part three: Summer of wildfires results in hundreds of evacuation orders, alerts

The Tremont Creek wildfire near Ashcroft, July 2021. (Photo credit: Tyler Fitzpatrick)The Tremont Creek wildfire near Ashcroft, July 2021. (Photo credit: Tyler Fitzpatrick)
The 10 Mile Slide site on Highway 99 north of Lillooet. (Photo credit: MOTI)The 10 Mile Slide site on Highway 99 north of Lillooet. (Photo credit: MOTI)
Employees at the I.G. Fibers plant near Ashcroft were locked out as of 7 p.m. on July 12. (Photo credit: Submitted)Employees at the I.G. Fibers plant near Ashcroft were locked out as of 7 p.m. on July 12. (Photo credit: Submitted)
Former Lytton RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Curtis Davis helps paint a rainbow crosswalk in Lytton in June 2019. Davis wanted to show the detachment’s support of the 2SLGBTQ+ community during Pride Month 2019, and with the help of local volunteers-including students from Kumsheen secondary school-and other detachment members painted a crosswalk at 4th and Main Streets. (Photo credit: Lytton RCMP)Former Lytton RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Curtis Davis helps paint a rainbow crosswalk in Lytton in June 2019. Davis wanted to show the detachment’s support of the 2SLGBTQ+ community during Pride Month 2019, and with the help of local volunteers-including students from Kumsheen secondary school-and other detachment members painted a crosswalk at 4th and Main Streets. (Photo credit: Lytton RCMP)
The rainbow crosswalk in Lytton, July 9, 2021. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)The rainbow crosswalk in Lytton, July 9, 2021. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Proposed plan of the new EcoDepot serving Cache Creek and Ashcroft. Work was scheduled to start in August, with the opening planned for spring 2022. (Photo credit: TNRD)Proposed plan of the new EcoDepot serving Cache Creek and Ashcroft. Work was scheduled to start in August, with the opening planned for spring 2022. (Photo credit: TNRD)
Smoke from the Tremont Creek wildfire near Ashcroft, July 2021. (Photo credit: Mona D’Amours)Smoke from the Tremont Creek wildfire near Ashcroft, July 2021. (Photo credit: Mona D’Amours)
(from l) Baking brigade organizers Jan Morrison, Jackie Berkey, Sue Peters, and Darlene Daily with some of the many baked goods donated by local residents for evacuees staying in Cache Creek (not pictured: volunteer Maggie Hillyard). (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)(from l) Baking brigade organizers Jan Morrison, Jackie Berkey, Sue Peters, and Darlene Daily with some of the many baked goods donated by local residents for evacuees staying in Cache Creek (not pictured: volunteer Maggie Hillyard). (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Members of the Desert Daze team with Marcie Down of Gold Country Communities Society (third from l) in July 2021, discussing plans to film some of this year’s festival. On Aug. 22 it was announced that the festival would have to be cancelled for the second year in a row. (Photo credit: Desert Daze/Facebook)Members of the Desert Daze team with Marcie Down of Gold Country Communities Society (third from l) in July 2021, discussing plans to film some of this year’s festival. On Aug. 22 it was announced that the festival would have to be cancelled for the second year in a row. (Photo credit: Desert Daze/Facebook)
Handwritten sign at the Ashcroft ambulance station, June 2020, thanking paramedics for their work during the pandemic. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)Handwritten sign at the Ashcroft ambulance station, June 2020, thanking paramedics for their work during the pandemic. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
A helicopter can just be seen at centre left bucketing part of the Lytton Creek wildfire at Arthur’s Seat near Spences Bridge on Aug. 15. (Photo credit: Dwayne Rourke)A helicopter can just be seen at centre left bucketing part of the Lytton Creek wildfire at Arthur’s Seat near Spences Bridge on Aug. 15. (Photo credit: Dwayne Rourke)
The Blue Wranglers (from l) Dan Fremlin, Bruce Ambler, Dustin Bentall, and Trixie Berkel play at a benefit concert in Clinton. (Photo credit: Kelly Sinoski/100 Mile Free Press)The Blue Wranglers (from l) Dan Fremlin, Bruce Ambler, Dustin Bentall, and Trixie Berkel play at a benefit concert in Clinton. (Photo credit: Kelly Sinoski/100 Mile Free Press)
Marg Johnson (l) and Lisa Dunstan (r) with a happy quilt recipient in Ashcroft in August 2021. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)Marg Johnson (l) and Lisa Dunstan (r) with a happy quilt recipient in Ashcroft in August 2021. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Plan showing proposed additions at Horsting’s Farm Market near Cache Creek, which include a miniature train similar to the one at the BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops. (Photo credit: TNRD)Plan showing proposed additions at Horsting’s Farm Market near Cache Creek, which include a miniature train similar to the one at the BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops. (Photo credit: TNRD)

JULY

Kumsheen School survives Lytton fire

Amid the devastation in Lytton came one ray of hope, when the Board of Education of School District No. 74 (Gold Trail) confirmed that Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School was spared from the fire that destroyed 90 per cent of the town. The school — formerly Kumsheen Secondary — is located on Highway 1 at the south end of Lytton, away from the downtown area. It was converted to a K–12 facility in early 2021, and as a result Lytton Elementary School was closed in January 2021. SD74 confirmed that the former elementary school, which was located in the downtown area, was lost to the fire. Read more at https://bit.ly/3sBkUKW.

Stabilization work almost completed at 10 Mile Slide site

Work on the 10 Mile Slide stabilization project on Highway 99 northeast of Lillooet was 90 per cent complete, with efforts focused on restoring the highway to two-lane traffic. The extensive work at the site had been ongoing for almost four years, since major slide activity in September 2017 closed the highway for several weeks and led to load restrictions on heavy vehicles. The stretch of highway has experienced slide activity for several decades, and stabilizing it has been difficult, given the complex geotechnical conditions at the site. Read more at https://bit.ly/3mV6EsT.

“My heart is still in Lytton”

Former Lytton RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Curtis Davis returned to Lytton to volunteer after the fire, and wrote about the experience of returning to the community, to which he still maintains close ties. Read more at https://bit.ly/3mBhAeR.

I.G. Fibers locks out employees

As of 7 p.m. on Monday, July 12, I.G. Machine & Fibers had locked out the employees at its site near Barnes Lake east of Ashcroft. The workers were served with a lockout notice the week before, and at 11.10 a.m. on July 11 the notice took effect. On July 12 the company gave notice that they were locking workers out as of 7 p.m. that day. The move came after some 18 months of negotiations. Read more at https://bit.ly/3JiEYHK.

Amid the devastation in Lytton, some glimmers of hope

A tour of Lytton after the fire of June 30 shows the extent of the devastation, but also some glimmers of hope for the future. Read more at https://bit.ly/3FtY3Ve.

BC SPCA rescues 41 animals after gaining access to Lytton

After gaining permission to go behind evacuation lines into the community of Lytton on July 8, the BC SPCA reported that they were able to rescue 41 animals from 27 different properties. The SPCA had been receiving requests from residents for help with animals left in the area, and compiled lists based on calls to the BC SPCA hotline. Working from these lists, 10 SPCA animal protection officers and two shelter staff, with additional staff and volunteers on hand to care for incoming animals, gained access to the community between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on July 8 to search for animals. Read more at https://bit.ly/312YoiE.

Supportive housing facility shaping up in Clinton

The Clinton and District Assisted Living Society started interviewing potential residents for its 20-unit supportive housing facility. It was also searching for cooks, housekeepers, and maintenance workers for the facility, which will serve Clinton, Loon Lake, 70 Mile, Green Lake, Canoe Creek, Dog Creek, Cache Creek, and Ashcroft. Construction of the facility was on schedule, with siding and underground services being installed. Society secretary Zee Chevalier said the project was on target for completion on Sept. 1. Read more at https://bit.ly/3sBqY5U.

Tremont Creek wildfire near Ashcroft continues to grow

As of Tuesday, July 20, the Tremont Creek wildfire east of Ashcroft was estimated by BC Wildfire Service to be 10,916 hectares in size. The fire was reported on July 13, and was part of the Lytton complex, which included the Lytton Creek and George Road fires. The Villages of Ashcroft and Cache Creek, the Ashcroft Indian Band, and parts of TNRD area “I” remained on evacuation alert. Areas around Barnes Lake and near Walhachin remained under evacuation order, including Koppers (the tie plant) on Evans Road. Read more at https://bit.ly/3EtFxuS.

Wildfires result in hundreds of evacuations

Several wildfires of note continued to burn throughout the region, with hundreds of properties on evacuation order and hundreds more on evacuation alert. Read more at https://bit.ly/3sBx0nm.

Work on Cache Creek/Ashcroft Eco-Depot to start

The long-anticipated new Eco-Depot for the Cache Creek/Ashcroft area was moving ahead, with construction set to start in August and a projected opening date of spring 2022 for the facility. At its meeting on July 15, the board of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) authorized a contract with Timbro Contracting for construction of the Eco-Depot. Timbro sent in one of four tenders received for the project, and their bid of $2,349,061.26 was the lowest one received. Read more at https://bit.ly/3Jk1IY4.

Some orders and alerts downgraded for Tremont Creek wildfire

The Tremont Creek and Lytton Creek wildfires continued to burn out of control as of July 27. The Tremont Creek fire near Ashcroft was estimated to be 12,016 hectares, while the Lytton Creek fire, burning to the south and east of Spences Bridge, had grown to 37,452 hectares. The Lytton Creek fire prompted an evacuation order for 169 properties in and around Spences Bridge on July 22. The fire threatened properties along Highway 8 and at one point crossed the highway. Highway 1 was closed for several hours overnight on July 26/27 while crews carried out a controlled burn. Read more at https://bit.ly/3mz8mjs.

Ashcroft Curling Club gets grant

The Ashcroft Curling Club got a cool piece of news: a $5,000 grant from the province’s Local Sport Relief Fund. “We applied for the funding because last year everyone paid so much money as their dues, and then we only had four or five times to curl,” said curling club president Hilda Jones. After being closed for the 2019/2020 season, the club was able to reopen on Nov. 3 last year following upgrades to the curling rink, including a new ice plant. However, on Dec. 2 Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the suspension of nearly two dozen adults sports, including curling, to try to curb the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Read more at https://bit.ly/3yYWfRz.

Clinton RCMP probe fatal collision involving stolen truck at 6 Mile Lake

A single vehicle collision south of Clinton on July 25 that claimed the life of one woman and involved a stolen truck was being investigated by the Clinton RCMP and the BC Coroners Service. Shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 25, Clinton RCMP received a call from BC Emergency Health Services, which had responded to a report that a passenger vehicle had swerved off Highway 97 and was sinking in 6 Mile Lake, eight kilometres south of Clinton. Frontline officers arrived at the scene to find bystanders performing CPR on an unresponsive adult woman. She was reported to have been an occupant of the vehicle, which had already slipped beneath the water. Read more at https://bit.ly/3sB53fh.

Site work underway at Alexandra Bridge

Plans to make the historic Alexandra Bridge south of Boston Bar the centrepiece of tourism and economic development plans in the region moved forward with a site visit on July 27. The goal of the visit was to assess the condition of the bridge structure’s two support towers, and marked the start of field work for the 1926 Alexandra Bridge Rehabilitation Project’s (ABRP) 2021 season. “This initial phase of the project will determine how best to repair the concrete in the towers and other bridge elements such as railings,” says New Pathways to Gold Society co-chair Terry Raymond. Read more at https://bit.ly/3et3KGZ.

Wildfire evacuees get a taste of home thanks to local bakers

Wildfire evacuees staying in the Cache Creek area got a little taste of home in late July, thanks to a few volunteers and a lot of locals who rolled up their sleeves and started baking. “It started as ‘Can we bake for the firefighters,’” said Sue Peters, one of the organizers, referring to the BC Wildfire Service camp at the Cache Creek park. “We were told they couldn’t accept donations, as they’re a government agency. And I talked to Incident Command, who said the firefighters are fed well. But they said ‘We know there are evacuees in the area, so we’d ask you to do for them what you’d do for us.’” Read more at https://bit.ly/3sybBeH.

AUGUST

Wildfires continue to burn out of control throughout region

The Tremont Creek and Lytton Creek wildfires continued to burn out of control as of Aug. 10. The Tremont Creek fire near Ashcroft was estimated to be 33,238 hectares, while the Lytton Creek fire, burning near Spences Bridge, had grown to 51,776 hectares. An evacuation order was in place around Tunkwa Provincial Park as the Tremont Creek fire moved toward Logan Lake, but an evacuation order for 169 properties in and around Spences Bridge was downgraded to an evacuation alert on Aug. 3. Read more at https://bit.ly/3FKgzsg.

Good news for Ashcroft ambulance station

A decision that would have negatively impacted the ambulance service level for 24 rural B.C. communities, including Ashcroft, was reversed, following an outcry about the effects on response times and staffing levels. Ashcroft would be classed as a station with 24/7 Alpha coverage, meaning a 90-second response time to calls. The paramedics providing that coverage will now have full-time jobs. Read more at https://bit.ly/3sHaGIO.

Ashcroft Terminal signs investment agreement Ashcroft Terminal Ltd. signed an investment agreement with Canadian Tire Corp., which would acquire a 25 per cent equity interest in the company. It marked another step in the development of Ashcroft Terminal, with the partnership allowing the terminal to further invest in infrastructure growth and additional capacity over the long term. Canadian Tire is the country’s largest container importer. Read more at https://bit.ly/3FyTsRA.

Evacuation alerts and orders continue as wildfires worsen

High winds and high temperatures over the weekend of Aug. 14 escalated many of the province’s wildfires, pushing them towards several communities and prompting multiple evacuation alerts and orders, highway closures, and a warning from the province’s public safety minister that travellers should stay out of fire-affected areas for non-essential reasons. “If you are planning to travel through these fire-affected areas, it’s time to change your plans,” Mike Farnworth said in a news conference on Aug. 16. He added “We are in for a challenging fight in the coming days.” The Tremont Creek wildfire moved within two kilometres of Logan Lake, prompting an evacuation order for the 2,000 residents of that community on Aug. 12, while the Lytton Creek wildfire prompted evacuation orders for hundreds of residents in the Lower Nicola area. Read more at https://bit.ly/3JjZJCR.

Cooler temperatures, precipitation bring wildfire relief

Cooler temperatures, scattered precipitation, and even some snow at higher elevations throughout the region helped slow the growth of many of the Interior’s wildfires, and allowed crews to work on the construction of fire guards and mop up hotspots. At a public information session on Aug. 22, BC Wildfire Service officials gave updates about the region’s fires. Because of the decreased fire activity, more than 650 properties in the TNRD had been downgraded from evacuation order to alert, including two on Woods Creek FSR near Barnes Lake. Read more at https://bit.ly/3pwo14R.

Desert Daze music festival cancelled

In June, the organizers of the annual Desert Daze music festival in Spences Bridge were congratulating themselves on having postponed this year’s event to the second weekend in September, instead of the usual second weekend in August. However, this year’s devastating wildfire season had already put the event in jeopardy, and the re-introduction of measures designed to halt the steep rise in COVID cases in the Interior Health region — including restrictions on outdoor gatherings and events such as concerts — led the organizers to make the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Desert Daze festival, and postpone it for another year. Read more at https://bit.ly/3EwVCQm.

Tremont Creek wildfire classed as “being held”

Two of the largest fires burning in the region were classed as “being held” as of Aug. 26, and had all remaining evacuation alerts rescinded to all clear. The Tremont Creek wildfire, which was first reported on July 12, was still estimated at 63,523 hectares, while the Sparks Lake wildfire — first reported on June 28 — was estimated at 89,626 hectares. Both were described as being held, meaning that “suppression has been sufficient to ensure the blaze is not likely to spread beyond its boundaries under current and forecasted conditions.” Read more at https://bit.ly/3eqJfL2.

Excluding Lytton, more than 160 structures lost to fires in TNRD

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District said that as of Aug. 27 there had been 161 structure losses within the TNRD due to five wildfires in the region, and that there would probably be more discoveries as further assessments were made. The losses did not include any losses on First Nations land or within municipalities like the Village of Lytton. The Tremont Creek, White Rock Lake, July Mountain, Lytton Creek, and Sparks Lake fires burned a combined total of 338,313 hectares, or 3,383 square kilometres. Read more at https://bit.ly/3etaftn.

Clinton musicians stay happy by singing the blues

“Do you guys like pickin’ and grinnin’?” That was the first thing Bruce Ambler said when he met Dustin Bentall and Trixie Berkel after they moved to Clinton last year. Their answer — a resounding yes — led to the formation of the Blue Wranglers, a bluegrass band that also includes mandolin player Dan Fremlin of Green Lake. Read more at https://bit.ly/3mBBgPG.

SEPTEMBER

Ashcroft Band to benefit from improved high-speed internet

The Ashcroft Indian Band (AIB) was one of 10 First Nations — including Bonaparte, Cook’s Ferry, and Shackan — that was set to see improved internet speeds and reliability in fall 2021, thanks to an investment from the Connecting British Columbia program that supports improved connectivity for Indigenous peoples. Jodene Blain, Band Administrator for AIB, said the band had been trying for several years to get improved internet access. They have been offering a number of online programs, such as a cooking show and Bingo, via their Facebook page, but a number of band members have difficulty accessing the content due to poor or non-existent connectivity. Read more at https://bit.ly/3pxmaN7.

Kumsheen School in Lytton reopens

One of the few positive stories to emerge from Lytton, after the devastating fire of June 30, was the news that Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School had survived the blaze. Two months later the school reopened, with 90 students registered. “The projection in June [before the fire] was 120 students,” said School District No. 74 superintendent Teresa Downs. “We thought a positive start would be 60 students, so to see it at 90 already: we’re happily impressed and shocked.” Read more at https://bit.ly/3FDpGuX.

After 75 days, Lytton residents still looking for answers

Lytton resident Denise O’Connor wrote about a lack of progress and communication following the fire of June 30. “It’s been 75 days since the fire that destroyed the town of Lytton, and I am writing this to express my continued concerns about the lack of leadership and lack of direction from the mayor and council since that devastating day. I, like so many others, fled the fire and lost everything. I, like so many others, am very concerned for the future of Lytton.” Read more at https://bit.ly/32ApnT4.

Brad Vis re-elected in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon

Brad Vis was re-elected as MP for the riding of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon during the federal election on Sept. 20. The incumbent Conservative MP had a substantial lead from the first poll to report, and it never dipped below a 30 per cent margin. He declared victory with just over 58 per cent of the polls counted. Read more at https://bit.ly/3pv065B.

Conservatives maintain hold on Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo

The federal Conservatives kept their grip on the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding during the federal election on Sept. 20, with candidate Frank Caputo beating the NDP’s Bill Sundhu by more than 9,000 votes to succeed Cathy McLeod as the new Member of Parliament. Caputo said he was “humbled and honoured” to be the riding’s next Member of Parliament. The race in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo had been wide open following the exit of McLeod, who had been the MP in the riding since 2008. Read more at https://bit.ly/3FzxyO8.

Handing out hugs, one quilt at a time

Marg Johnson and Lisa Dunstan were providing hugs to wildfire evacuees, one quilt at a time, via a project that is particularly personal for one of them. Johnson was moved by the plight of evacuees from Lytton following the fire on June 30 that destroyed 90 per cent of the community. Through Heather’s Fabric Shelf and Katja’s Quilt Shoppe in Kamloops, she put out the word to quilters from coast to coast, saying she was looking for donations of quilts for people from Lytton, and soon hundreds were arriving. Read more at https://bit.ly/3z3TRJ9.

Miniature railway, other attractions proposed for Horsting’s Farm Market

A new miniature railway attraction was one of the proposed additions at Horsting’s Farm Market, just north of Cache Creek on Highway 97. At its regular meeting on Sept. 23, the board of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District voted to give first and second reading to a Zoning Amendment Bylaw that would allow Horsting’s to construct and operate open air amusement rides and attractions at the site, including a miniature passenger railway train similar to the one at the B.C. Wildlife Park in Kamloops. A report to the TNRD board noted that the railway is one of several attractions the property owners hope to add to the site over the next decade. Other proposed attractions include mini-golf, bumper boats, ziplines, and a pipe coaster. Read more at https://bit.ly/311rz5w.

2021 Year in ReviewAshcroftCache Creek