Silence deafening as residents view Puntzi Lake fire video

Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond said emotions were high during Puntzi Lake fire meeting Saturday.

When a video showing losses in the Puntzi Lake fire was shared at a meeting at Tsi Del Del First Nation Saturday afternoon the silence was deafening, said Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond.

“It was very hard to watch their faces,” Richmond told the Tribune Sunday, noting more than 100 residents attended the closed meeting, some who lost homes and others who have been evacuated from the area or are under evacuation alert. “You could see the emotion they were feeling.”

There was also a lot of frustration from residents wanting to get back into the area to see the damage for themselves, but until the Ministry of Forests can ensure people will be safe to go in that cannot happen, Richmond said.

With the video, the CRD wanted to show the complete Puntzi Lake area, both the devastated areas and the untouched areas that are still green.

“We wanted it to be accurate and unabridged,” Richmond said.

Once residents impacted by the fire were able to view the video it was then put on the internet.

At the meeting forestry officials spoke about the fire, which is still estimated to be 7,000 hectares. As of Sunday morning the Cariboo Fire Centre said the fire was 30 per cent guarded on the southwest flank.

Richmond said Emergency Social Services (ESS) co-ordinator Dave Dickson told people at the meeting what he could offer them as well.

“We also heard that people wanted more access to information in Tsi Del Del so we are now working with the post office to share constant updates,” Richmond said, adding the community school may be used if needed.

It was a good meeting with many great questions, he said.

Due to issues with security and helping protect homes in the evacuated area, the RCMP sent two extra officers to help with patrols out of the Alexis Creek RCMP detachment on Saturday night.

Currently the evacuation order involves 90 properties and the evacuation alert is for an additional 183 properties. There are 300 people in the Tsi Del Del community, also under the alert.

On Friday Tsi Del Del Chief Percy Guichon said the fire is about 10 kilometres as the crow flies from his community.

Two elders from the community, however, live at Puntzi Lake and were evacuated, and one of the band employees lived at the lodge that was lost in the fire. In total two permanent residences, one seasonal residence, and the lodge were lost, with a total of about 18 structures.

So far 18 people have registered with ESS.