Premier Horgan promises long-term support to fire-ravaged communities

By Jill Sperling
August 28, 2017 - 5:29pm

ASHCROFT — Premier John Horgan paid a visit to Kamloops, Cache Creek, Ashcroft, and Kelowna today (Aug 28). 

While in Ashcroft, the premier toured the fire scorched lands of the Aschroft Indian Band, witnessing the devastation left behind by the Elephant Hill Wildfire. 

Walking through the scorched graveyard, Horgan promised to keep working with the communities hardest hit by the wildfires, long after the major threat has passed. 

"I wanted to make sure that I was talking to people like the chief here in Ashcroft, and residents in Ashcroft, so that they know that the government's going to be there for them, not just for this crisis, but after the crisis is over," Horgan said. "That means being her in September, in October, and in November as the community rebuilds."

There will be plenty to rebuild. A dozen homes were burned to the ground when the Elephant Hill wildfire ripped through the tiny community in early July. 

"We've lost 12 houses," said Chief Greg Blain. "We have 32 houses, we lost 12. We lost our shop, we lost all our tools, everything. We lost all of our historical records, they were all burnt up on us. As you can see with our graveyard here as we're just walking around there are so many crosses down, it's going to take probably a two or three year process just to put everything back together again." 

Horgan's visit to the Ashcroft Indian Band marks the first visit by a premier in recent memory. 

Blain says he appreciates the visit, but notes this government has a lot of catching up to do. 

"They have to make the money flow a lot better than what they're doing," Blain said. "We had the EOC and the ESS down here in Ashcroft and nobody else opened one, so we opened it for the region. So we did it not only for the band, which it was for, we did it for Boston Flats, we did it for Loon Lake, we did it for Clinton ... and they're a little slow on paying us back."

When Horgan was sworn in as premier six weeks ago, one of his first actions was to increase payment amounts to evacuees. The premier admits the payout has been slow. 

"I think the biggest challenge has been that when people left their homes, they left everything behind, so registering with the Red Cross has been a problem," Horgan said. "But now we're getting through some of those kinks and I'm confident the people will be able to get the resources that are available there, but there's a whole lot more work that we need to do." 

Horgan says the uprecedented fire season is causing economic strain on agriculture, tourism, and business.

Despite the devastation the fires have caused, Horgan says the province has shown incredible strength.

"Adversity is what I think brings the best out of people," Horgan said. "What I've seen from emergency personnell, what I've seen from community representatives, what I've seen from regular people is that they rise to the occasion of adversity, and I'm hopeful that our government will do that as well." 

Wildfire costs hit more than 400 million dollars