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'I'm disappointed': Fire-ravaged Shuswap disputes BC Wildfire Service outreach claims


As their community still struggles with rebuilding infrastructure and housing residents whose homes burned in a devastating wildfire, Shuswap’s local government is baffled at comments made by provincial officials.

CTV News directly asked whether there’d been outreach to the fire-ravaged region after tensions ran high following the Adams Complex fires in August. At the time, provincial officials scolded local residents and accused them of stealing firefighting equipment, while locals said they were using infrastructure that was pre-positioned but left unused in order to protect their homes.

“We don’t want conflict during an emergency,” replied Minister of Emergency Management Bowinn Ma. “Those kinds of conversations we have with our emergency response partners, local governments, First Nations, emergency responders and communities are happening right now or they've occurred already.”

The North Shuswap, where the bulk of the friction occurred when the province enacted evacuation orders without supports for people stranded on alert, is an unincorporated area so it has no mayor, but it has a regional director for “Electoral Area F” and is overseen by the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District.

“I have not been personally contacted by either emergency management or BC Wildfire Services,” said regional director, Jay Simpson in a one-on-one interview with CTV News, nor, he says, has the CSRD. He added the regional district had invited both the wildfire service and the RCMP to attend a community open house on wildfire response last week and was declined.

Another journalist also pressed Ma and the BC Wildfire Service on whether Shuswap residents specifically had seen any outreach.

“There has been multiple direct contact with individuals in that area,” insisted BCWS provincial operations director, Cliff Chapman, who claimed the premier’s new emergency task force had also engaged with the regional district.

Simpson said that he wasn’t contacted by the task force, and neither was the CSRD to his knowledge, which is particularly frustrating since they have dozens of locals who’ve signed up for civilian firefighter training for the upcoming season but haven’t had any provincial funding for that despite multiple attempts.

“I'm disappointed and concerned (we haven’t had any outreach),” he said. “My community is not out of the woods—we didn't get a whole lot of moisture over the winter so I would guess there's still smouldering going on.”

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Forests insists staff, including the task force and the wildfire service, “met with elected officials, and with staff from the CSRD on multiple occasions” after people lost their homes and that they attended an in-person meeting with the CSRD in Salmon Arm in October. Simpson was not named in the ministry’s email disputing his comments. Top Stories

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