Wildfire Devastates Telegraph Creek

John Crawford

The Village of Telegraph Creek is being devastated by wildfire -- but fortunately there has been no reported loss of life or serious injury.

A community meeting was held in Dease Lake this morning to bring people up to date on the situation -- and the news was grim.

The tiny community was ordered evacuated by the Kitimat-Stikine Regional District Sunday and Highway 51 closed, as the Stikine Complex of nine wildfires ravaged the area and threatened the village.

An emotional Tahltan Band Chief  Rick McLean told this morning's community meeting that 27 structures were hit -- that's a 35-to-40 per cent structural loss.

"Our town has sustained significant damage, but there's no life loss;  we are the community, we are resilient, we're going to lean on each other and we're going to try to continue to fight the fight as best we can -- the choppers are in there bucketing as we speak, they've been going as early as they possibly could."

Air crews are flying out of Iskut, since the air is too smoky to fly out of Dease Lake.

By this morning, the Alkali Lake fire had grown to over 7800 hectares, while the South Stikine River blaze was over  six thousand hectares.

Incident commander Hugh Murdoch of the BC Wildfire Service says crews are doing everything they can.

"We've got one helluva fire in a really bad place, we see these burn scars, these historical burns in the area -- clearly large fire is a part of this landscape, we've just got one in a really really bad place right now," he said.

The Northwest Fire Centre's Tony Falco told the crowd the fire has been growing at a rate of one kilometre an hour over the past couple of days, and smoke is also causing major problems -- so while crews are fighting as hard as they can to save structures, the top priority is the safety of the public and the responders. 

He also says at this point, they don't believe Dease Lake is at risk, but contingency plans are in place if it heads in that direction.

Meantime, a donation centre has been set up in Terrace, to help support residents of Telegraph Creek and the  Elbow Lake area, further north.

Evacuees were directed to a reception centre in Dease Lake.

The Terrace Donation Centre is located at the Progressive Ventures building on Highway 16 West, next to Mumford's Beerhouse.

A donation drive is being held this afternoon in Kitsumkalum (3-4pm), organized by Kitsumkalum Public Works.


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