An aggressive wildfire at Puntzi Lake has left four property owners sifting through the ashes.
Two permanent homes, a seasonal home and the Woodland Caribou Resort were destroyed as the fire erupted without warning Wednesday, July 8.
Residents were allowed back into their homes in the evacuation zone along Puntzi Lake Monday afternoon while BC Hydro crews worked to restore power to the community.
Originally measuring 300 hectares, the fire grew to 8,089 by Saturday, forcing more evacuation orders and alerts.
When an aerial video showing the losses was shared with residents during a meeting at Tsi Del Del First Nation Saturday, the silence was deafening, said Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond.
“It was very hard to watch their faces,” Richmond said, noting more than 100 residents attended the closed meeting, some of whom lost homes.
By Sunday 17 millimetres of rain and cooler temperatures slowed the fire with the Cariboo Fire Centre confirming 30 per cent of the fire was contained.
On Tuesday at noon, the CFC said crews continued to directly attack the fire’s edge utilizing both pump systems and skidder tankers for hard-to-reach areas.
“Mop-up efforts are ongoing in and around private property and homes affected by the wildfire. Dozers have established control lines along the north and southeast perimeter.”
Tsi Del Del Chief Percy Guichon flew over the site Sunday and said it was sobering to see the devastation from the air.
“We could see the fire had reached the Chilcotin River but it didn’t jump,” he said.
On Monday Guichon attended the security line as people were being allowed back into some of the evacuated areas.
“We are all still on alert though,” he said.
Besides the loss of property, a Conair pilot helping battle the blaze escaped without serious injuries after the single seat Air Tractor AT-802F Fire Boss he was flying crashed into Puntzi Lake Friday afternoon at about 1:30 p.m. during the height of the wildfire.
Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Bill Yearwood said the pilot was scooping water and lost control of the aircraft during takeoff.
“As it collided back with the lake, the floats got ripped off, and that caused the aircraft to sink,” Yearwood said. “The floats remained on the surface.”
Divers were scheduled to retrieve the sunken plane Tuesday.
BC Hydro crews discovered 29 poles need replacing and lots of wire was down, but no spilled transformers were observed.
BC Hydro media spokesperson Dave Mosure said approximately 35 customers were restored Monday afternoon by 2 p.m. A rough estimated time of restoration of power is about four days.
The CRD said as of Tuesday, 22 people registered for emergency social services and the Red Cross was meeting with impacted residents at the Tsi Del Del community hall Tuesday and Wednesday.