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Castlegar mayor: ‘We got lucky this time’

Castlegar wildfire 100% contained
Merry Creek wildfire. Photo: Ootischenia Fire Department

Progress has been made on the Merry Creek wildfire near Castlegar and BC Wildfire Service says it is now 100 per cent contained and held at 20 hectares. It was removed from the Fires of Note list on Sunday afternoon.

As of Sunday afternoon, Highway 3 is still limited to single, alternating traffic.

Overnight Saturday, the Ootischenia Fire Department was called out on two separate occasions by residents in the area over concerns of hot spots, according to the RDCK.

They were able to quickly locate andextinguish the smoulders. Both were located within the contained portion of the fire perimeter.

Ootischenia Fire Chief Len Coates says the fire will likely continue to smoulder until humidity levels raise, temperatures drop and some good rain comes to our area.

He is also saying thank you to those in the community who supported the fire efforts.

“Donations of food and drink came from so many community businesses and private residents to support crews — sometimes numbering close to 75 — during the day in extreme heat working inside the fire line,” said Coates.

Hard work by a myriad of emergency personnel and first responders can be credited for much of the success and keeping the fire to 20 hectares. Fire crews and those that support them have worked tirelessly since the fire first broke out around noon on Canada Day, July 1.

Castlegar Mayor Kirk Duff also credits our proximity to the Southeast Fire Centre’s aviation centre and the quick response they offered.

“We were very fortunate,” said Duff in a weekend interview. “The quick turn arounds with the bombers and the retardants made the difference between saving and losing houses.”

During the peak of the fire, houses within the City of Castlegar and in the Regional District of Central Kootenay were on evacuation alerts or orders and the Castleview Care Centre was also evacuated. Interior Health also evacuated Talarico place as a precautionary measure.

The mayor hopes this incident will serve as a wake up call for everyone.

He encourages everyone to be alert and aware of what is going on around them and to have a go-bag ready at all times.

“Be ready,” said Duff. “Don’t waste any time once you are notified.”

Duff says most aspects of the emergency operations centre went really well and as far as the smaller things that didn’t — he looks forward to learning how the city can do better if another situation like this should arrive.

“I am really proud of the staff at the EOC and certainly our emergency personnel through the quick response and the constant vigilance they showed,” said Duff.

He is also proud of how the community came together to support the evacuees, including the residents of Castleview Care Centre.

The residents of Castleview Care Centre were first moved to the Castlegar Community Complex, where they spent Thursday night. On Friday they were relocated to a church in Trail.

The residents were finally moved back to the care centre on Sunday.

Duff praised the centre’s staff for the caring and dedicated way they assisted their residents, no matter where they were.

“There is a lot of compassion there,” said Duff.

Interior Health says plans are being made to return Talarico residents on Tuesday, July 6.

Duff’s key message was to encourage the community to take emergency preparedness seriously.

“This is just the start of summer. Stay calm, be prepared. When you hear alerts — pay attention and take them seriously. We got lucky this time. Let’s be careful.”


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Merry Creek wildfire. Photo: Ootischenia Fire Department

Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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