Communities cleaning up destruction left by Elephant Hill fire

By Jill Sperling
September 14, 2017 - 4:33pm Updated: September 14, 2017 - 6:08pm

CACHE CREEK, B.C. — Communities once ravaged by the Elephant Hill Wildfire are beginning their cleanup efforts.

Just two months ago residents of the communities of Cache Creek, Boston Flats, and the Ashcroft Indian Band were anxiously waiting for information on the damage done by the wildfire. 

For many, the news that came was devastating, with dozens of homes being lost in the fire.

In Boston Flats work to remove the charred remains of mobile homes began this week. 

"Right now cleanup is into its second or third day, and we've got one full street done, except for the standing trailers," said Marianne Rumball, manager of the Boston Flats trailer park. 

Out of 49 homes in Boston Flats, 43 were burned to the ground, and some still standing have been condemned. 

Some former residents have moved on, while others plan to return in Spring, when services are expected to be restored.

"We were a very old park, with old units, and old infrastructure," Rumball said. "Those who hang in there and want to come back, we're going to have a new trailer park basically, in that we're going to have a new water system."

While there have been some offers made on the trailer park, and rumours of an impending sale, Rumball says the owners don't intend to sell. 

"I have no doubt whatsoever that this park is not for sale," Rumball said. "I'm not saying down the road, I mean it is a business, right? That's why people are in the business, but no immediate plans for it, but a lot of exciting plans for rebuilding."

The Ashcroft Indian Band is also making plans to rebuild. 

The band lost 12 homes, its shop, and irreplaceable historical records in the Elephant Hill fire. 

Chief Greg Blain says everyone who lost homes plans to return, and he hopes that can happen by Christmas. 

"There's a lot of paperwork, a lot of talking to different government agencies, and businesses to get everything set up so we know what we're dealing with when we do start rebuilding," he said. "Unfortunately, a lot of our houses were under-insured, and the costs have gone up so much we have to raise a lot more dollars to replace what was lost."

Cache Creek was mostly spared thanks to the fire retardant that still stains the community. 

However, businesses are still struggling to bounce back after evacuations, highway closures, and smoky skies prevented tourist traffic. 

"You can see that the air has cleared up," said Cache Creek mayor John Ranta. "It was pretty darn smoky here for quite a long time, and that's always a damper on the tourist traffic. But, things are getting back to normal, but it remains to be seen whether the businesses will recover long term or not."

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