During the recent Union of BC Municipalities Convention, the City of Williams Lake introduced a resolution calling on the provincial and federal governments to establish a minimum $1-billion rural wildfire recovery fund.
The fund would assist British Columbia communities, including First Nations communities, that have been impacted by the “unprecedented record-breaking wildfire season of 2017.”
Called the Rural Fire Recovery Fund 2017, the resolution encouraged the federal and provincial governments to act quickly to provide financial assistance to for economic recovery in all B.C. communities impacted by wildfires in 2017.
District of 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall says he fully supports the resolution.
“When you look at what’s happened across Canada and we’re talking about a lot smaller events with not as much impact on such a huge an area, there has been a huge amount of money thrown in the pot by the government of Canada.
Campsall says when he talked to Premier John Horgan at UBCM, he was also receptive to the resolution.
The mayor adds Horgan said that after he talked to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he believes the federal government is going to be putting in money.
“My biggest issue is let’s do this sooner rather than later because right now is when we’re impact at smaller businesses.”
Campsall says he’s pleased the province has provided money to Cariboo-Chilcotin-Coast Tourism Association and Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association.
“We’re going to need a fairly big package because it’s going to take time to get people back into this community. It’s going to take quite a while to attract tourists from Europe and all over the world to come back here, so the tourism industry is going to need a lot of money.”
Campsall says this community needs a lot of help, and not only economically. He adds there needs to some help with health and social issues, as people are starting react to the negative impacts of the summer wildfires.
There’s going to be money for that as well, he adds.
“I had really good discussions with Red Cross and representatives are coming up and I’m going to set up a meeting with some of the non-profits that have had losses through the fires, as well as with the school board and Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre. The Chamber of Commerce will definitely be involved.
“We’ll have a small sit-down conversation. I don’t want to do a big group because things will get lost.”
Campsall says people are telling him they’re having problems dealing with the issues and turmoil.
“Business people are having terrible problems and they’re starting to react now. The premier knows those are big-time issues and he wants to deal with them for sure.”
The logging and lumber industries have a window of two to three years to deal with the “black standing logs,” the mayor explains.
This issue was discussed during a meeting with Premier Horgan and his deputy Forest Minister, he adds.
“They know there’s a limited shelf life, so we can’t do studies and a bunch of other stuff. We need to get in there an get those logs out now.”
Campsall says it is extremely important to get the charred trees out of the tourism areas.
“We have to get them out right away because that’s going to affect [the viewscape for tourism]. They can be used now, so let’s get on it now.”