Last Friday Joey Thomas of Williams Lake Indian Band lost his home when a wildfire rapidly hit his community of Sugar Cane.
He returned to the site for the first time Thursday and said there was nothing left.
“I lived there most of my life,” he said, adding he shared the home with Valva Tenale.
When the fire started he wasn’t at home and since then he’s been staying with family and friends.
WLIB band councillor Willie Sellars told Tribune Friday afternoon that the band met with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and were told the costs to rebuild Thomas’s home would be covered.
“I saw Joey today and was able to tell him that and he was so happy, he hugged me,” Sellars said. “It really lifted his spirits.”
Sellars said the community lost some outbuildings and a number of vehicles as well.
“Like all residents of the Cariboo and other areas impacted by wildfires, we’re struggling to deal with ongoing impacts of this disaster,” Sellars said. “The fire burned right through the most populated areas of Sugar Cane. It’s truly remarkable that more structures weren’t lost, and we’re very grateful that there has been no loss of life.”
Sellars was home in the community when there was a knock on his door alerting him of the fire and to evacuate.
“I went back the next day to help fight the fire along with our Williams Lake Indian band firefighters the forestry firefighters.”
As a result of the blaze the community lost large stands of timber as well as damage to a significant amount of land around Coyote Golf Course, which the community owns.
Sellars said the band wants to recognize the efforts of all the firefighters, both from outside the community and within the community that have been battling, and continue to battle, the blaze.
“Those people are true heroes and we’re extremely grateful for their efforts. We know that we’re not done yet, though. Our community, and other communities around B.C., are still at risk. We need to remain diligent and to cooperate with all the agencies that are working together to deal with the fires.”
Caused by lightning strikes, the wildfire tore down the hill above the community and quickly spread around the golf course and eventually hopped Highway 97 east of Mission Road.
Community members were evacuated only having moments to grab a few basic possessions, pets and other important items. The bulk of the community remains under the evacuation order, although some members of the community have remained in their homes. Anyone wishing to access services can contact the WLIB downtown office at 778-417-0109 or visit the office at 172 Second Avenue North in Williams Lake.