More than a week after returning to their community, residents of Lower Post, in northern British Columbia (Western Canada), are still busy cleaning up and taking stock of the damage from wildfires this summer.
They’re also watching as small fires continue to flare up in the area.
“It’s hard on some people. There’s some people that have asthma here, but they’re toughing it out,” said resident Dennis Porter.
An evacuation order for the community was lifted on Sept. 7, two weeks after it was issued. During the evacuation, most Lower Post residents found refuge in nearby Watson Lake, Yukon.
Nobody from Lower Post was hurt by the wildfires, but three buildings in the community were destroyed, along with some vehicles. Many trees have been cut down.
As of Friday, the BC Wildfire Service said the nearby Lutz Creek wildfire was seeing minimal activity, but there were still hot spots. The fire had burned about 76,100 hectares.
Porter says the whole experience has been “pretty devastating” for residents.
“A lot of people were crying. But what can you do? It happened,” he said.
“I think people are just kind of getting used to it, settling down and accepting the fact that we’re damaged — but we’ll survive.”
Shawne Brooks’ home was spared by the fire, but her neighbour’s was not.
“The fire crept up into our yard and charred the tree that we have our clothesline on,” Brooks said.
She recalls leaving Lower Post when the evacuation order was issued last month, and feeling the heat from nearby fires, on her driveway.
“I know when we drove down the highway when we’d left, and we looked back and there was a plume of black smoke — and it felt like I was hanging onto the end of a rope,” she said.
“It was sitting on pins and needles, hoping and trusting.”
The community’s daycare, and school — both near Brooks’ home — also survived the fire. Residents say they’re grateful for how firefighters were able to contain the damage.
The community has received a lot of donations from other communities in B.C. and Yukon. The Daylu Dena Council plans to hold a public meeting soon, to decide how to use the donations.
Lower Post is also still under a boil-water advisory.
With files from Philippe Morin
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Canadian study shows wildfires speeding up permafrost thaw, CBC News
Finland: Finland’s drought ends with violent storms, Yle News
Norway: Arctic Europe’s July records melted under extreme temperatures, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Forest fires are raging across the Barents region, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Hot, arid summer guts a third of Sweden’s cereal harvest, Radio Sweden
United States: Most of Alaska’s active wildfires pose no threat, authorities say, Alaska Public Media