By Todd Stone,
MLA for Kamloops
If you want to better understand what’s really going on in the communities of Monte Lake and Paxton Valley ravaged by the White Rock Lake fire I encourage everyone to watch a powerful video filmed by local residents called ‘A Valley Destroyed – The Story of Monte Lake and Paxton Valley’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=ToiVJjD_j10&feature=youtu.be
It paints a jarring picture of communities that feel abandoned by their government, but also feel united in having each other’s backs, as neighbour courageously looks after neighbour, a reality of life in rural B.C.
Many homes, ranches and livelihoods have been lost. More are at risk with lots of summer ahead, expected to be long, hot and dry. People need help.
What they don’t need is to be told that government is using every available resource to combat the fire when everyone knows that not to be true.
What they don’t need is Premier John Horgan posting pictures of playing disc golf – seemingly oblivious to the fact that the southern half of B.C. is on fire – instead of showing compassion, even interest in what’s going on up here. Or is he truly just the Premier of Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver?
What they don’t need is Solicitor General Mike Farnworth lecturing people for feeling compelled to remain behind and fight like hell to protect their homes, especially since the residents are doing so because they don’t believe their government has their backs.
And people certainly don’t need Mike Farnworth to suggest residents aren’t telling the truth when they say that locals were told to stand down for 48 hours after the fire was discovered on July 13.
I was particularly struck by Rob Bouchard’s comments in this video when he said, “Paxton Valley was consumed with fire. Residents are trying to put out remaining little fires and save a few more homes. There’s no other help, no outside help. Only people who live around here running around tirelessly trying to put out fires. When you’re in the midst of it, you see what’s really going on, and on social media local people are trying to tell the story. Then you get Internet trolls telling people we’re morons, stupid for being here, or that we’re not telling the truth. Why would we lie about this?” A good question for Mike Farnworth – why would residents lie about this?
The people of Monte Lake and Paxton Valley have many valid questions that need to be answered – like why this fire wasn’t attacked immediately upon discovery on July 13 (and indeed why locals were told to stand down for the initial 48 hours); why it took so long to get any significant resources assigned to the fire – especially air assets; why many residents of Monte Lake and Paxton Valley that were promised structure protection never received any, etc. Believe me when I say that we will get answers to these and many other questions from John Horgan and Mike Farnworth one way or another. It’s called accountability.
Moving forward, as the MLA for this area, I’m going to do all I can to be a voice of change for how we prepare for, fight and recover from wildfires. We need to do a much better job fireproofing our communities like removing fuel in our forests.
We need to challenge our wildfire management practices from top to bottom. We need to embrace new wildfire management technology and truly leverage every available fire fighting land and air asset including and especially from within the private sector.
We need to respectfully LISTEN to locals and leverage their knowledge. We need to ensure government has the backs of everyone in British Columbia, including the decent, hard-working folks in rural communities who are taxpayers and huge contributors to our province.
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