Able-bodied First Nations people remain in their communities to battle B.C. wildfires

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      Some First Nations people are not leaving their homes in the B.C. Interior, despite an evacuation order because of wildfires.

      Chief Joe Alphonse, chair of the Tsilhquot'in National Government, said in a news release that even though there's a state of emergency, they're not going without a fight.

      "These fires are big and unpredictable," he said. "Our able-bodied volunteers have stayed and are dedicated to saving our communities. Our brave men and women are doing a great job."

      He said that the Tl’etinqox have been evacuated twice in the past, and that just ended up causing more stress and grief. So 250 to 300 people are remaining in the community at Anahim Lake, creating their own crews to fight the fires.

      The Tl'etinqox First Nation is the largest nation in the Tsilhquot'in National Government, and many of its members live 100 kilometres west of Williams Lake.

      "We have some heavy equipment, and we’ll do what we can to save the 120 homes in this community," Alphonse stated. "We greatly appreciate the support we’ve received but more resources are needed. We call on the federal and provincial governments to bring in more resources as quickly as possible. Donations can be coordinated through the Tsilhqot’in National Government.”

      Chief Russell Myers Ross of the Yunesit'in First Nation noted that most of his community members have retreated, but two dozen are remaining, "including the presence of our fire crews". The community is 114 kilometres west of Williams Lake.

      "We have able-bodied members with their tickets that we are intent on activating to protect the community," the chief said in the news release. "It is their home and their heart is in it to be here. We are making strides to do what we can to increase the communication, acquire equipment and resources to protect the community as we may not be perceived as a priority otherwise." 

      Meanwhile, there's an evacuation alert in place for Williams Lake, which is the largest community between Kamloops and Prince George. Nearly 11,000 people live in Williams Lake, who now have to be ready to leave on a moment's notice.

      About 14,000 people have already been evacuated from other communities in the Kamloops and Cariboo forest regions, including the entire population of 100 Mile House.

      The Hanceville fires are centred 60 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake. They're estimated to cover 10,000 hectares.

      The Gustafsen North wildfire is just west of 100 Mile House and is estimated at 5,000 hectares.

      The 150 Mile House wildfire is just south of Williams Lake and is estimated at 2,500 hectares.

      The Wildwood wildfire is 2,000 hectares. It's near the Williams Lake airport just north of Williams Lake.

      The Dragon Mountain wildfire is 25 kilometres south of Quesnel and is estimated at 1,500 hectares.

      The Soda Creek wildfire is 100 hectares and it's just northwest of Williams Lake.

      The Spokin Lake wildfire is 300 hectares and it's 20 kilometres east of Williams Lake.