The area under the Highway 20 bridge in Williams Lake is being fenced in by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s contractor. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

The area under the Highway 20 bridge in Williams Lake is being fenced in by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s contractor. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake area under Highway 20 bridge being fenced in to deter camps, fires

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said the fencing should be completed mid-March

An area where homeless people have camped under the Highway 20 bridge in Williams Lake is being fenced in because of safety concerns.

The fencing is being installed due to large fires having been lit underneath the structure, which are a potential hazard to the concrete girders, as high heat can break the concrete, a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson told the Tribune, adding fires are also a safety concern for any people in the area.

“Safety is our top priority – and safety concerns have been raised as this is an unsafe location for people to inhabit and any fires under the bridge also compromise the safety of the structure.”

The ministry is working with its maintenance contractor Dawson Road Maintenance to construct fencing at both the south and north bridge abutments with the project scheduled to be complete by mid-March.

“This fencing will protect the safety of the bridge by helping deter fires from being lit and prevent people from being in an unsafe location,” the ministry spokesperson added.

In December the Williams Lake Fire Department responded to two fires under the bridge, followed up by a Sunday morning clean-up organized and carried out by local residents and some city officials.

Read more: Williams Lake Fire Dept. knocks down small fire under bridge

Read more: Community bands together to cleanup mess under Highway 20 bridge Sunday

A year ago in the spring BC Housing formed a group in Williams Lake last for community partners to work together and respond to the pandemic for vulnerable people in the community.

Senior communications advisor Samantha Cacnio said the group meets weekly and consists of local social service providers, the city of Williams Lake, Interior Health, the Aboriginal Housing Management Association and BC Housing.

“The group looks at solutions for isolating and supporting the needs of individuals who are unable to isolate themselves due to COVID-19 concerns and from the cold weather.”

Two weeks ago the city also installed some propane heaters and tarped in the picnic shelter at Boitanio Park to provide a daytime warming area.

Read more: Williams Lake picnic shelter to be tarped, heated for daytime warming area during cold snap

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