KAMLOOPS — An emotional Mitch Campsall broke down a few times as he addressed 100 Mile House and other Cariboo residents at a public information session in Kamloops on Monday night.
The mayor of 100 Mile House recalled the night he signed the evacuation order on July 9, believing the town would be burned by the fast-moving Gustafsen wildfire, which is 5,700 hectares and 35 per cent contained.
"The night I pushed that button, I did not think we would have a 100 Mile to come back to," said Campsall, speaking in front of hundreds of Cariboo residents at a public information session on Monday night in Kamloops.
But the B.C. Wildfire Service says the fire is stable and hasn't grown at all.
"All I've got to say is we really wanted to come here tonight and tell you that we're bringing you home. That was our goal," noted Campsall. "That got cut. We couldn't do it, but we're working. We are working. Our main objective is to bring you home safely."
Kimberly Bance-Lundsby from 100 Mile House has been away from home since the order on July 9. She, too, wondered if the town would still be standing.
"It looked really dicey for a long time. When we left it was scary," she said. "We thought maybe we won't have a town to come home to, maybe we won't have jobs. But that's not in the picture right now."
100 Mile and the Cariboo Regional District are working to get residents back home quickly.
"Areas surrounding 100 Mile House, it's calm. We've been able to do assessments, and we're beginning to look at how we can bring folks home," said chair of the Cariboo Regional District Al Richmond. "I don't want you to believe that you're coming home tomorrow or the end of the week. There's many things that have to be done."
As for residents of Williams Lake who had to flee the city on Saturday, the fire is still about seven kilometers from their homes. But everyone at Monday night's information session expressed their appreciation for the hospitality offered in Kamloops with a standing ovation.
For mayor Campsall, towns like 100 Mile House are still there thanks to the tireless work of firefighters.
"We've got heroes in our community. They're calle dour fire departments," said Campsall. "103 is there because of both the 108 and 100 Mile fire departments at the beginning. 108 is there because of those two fire departments. They are heroes, and when we get back home you want to make sure you go shake their hand because they deserve it."
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