Monte Lake residents and the provincial forest ministry have contradictory views of fire fighting effort

Ministry defends fire attack

Residents of Monte Lake and officials with the BC Ministry of Forests have a different view of events leading up to the destruction of numerous structures as a result of the highly aggressive White Rock Lake Wildfire.

In a widely shared YouTube video, residents of the small community who ignored evacuation orders and stayed behind to protect their property, say they were left on their own to save what they could.

Some residents say they have been running around trying to put out hot spots where they can.

"There's no one here....just five residents," said one resident.

"There was a lack of response and a lack of help," said another. "All the residents of this valley have been screaming for help from BC Wildfire, but we have been all but neglected."

They claim structural protection was not put in place.

Deputy forest minister Rick Manwaring, during a Tuesday teleconference painted a different picture.

While fully appreciating the situation of residents in Monte Lake, Manwaring says residents were given enough time to go, and crews were dispatched to save as many structures as possible.

"There was more than a day-and-a-half between alerts being issued and orders being put in place before the fire began to move through. In that time frame, we were able to get in and put in structural protection and get our crews into the area," said Manwaring.

"When we assess properties, structural protection assessment experts go in and assess whether properties can be defended. Those that can be receive structural protection unit installation."

The fire he said, was moving through as a Rank 6 wildfire, backed by 40 to 60 kilometre per hour winds, "very challenging even for structural protection units to protect properties."

"Our structural protection teams were in there, supported by our BC Wildfire Service staff.

"As I mentioned, this fire had been burning for quite some time leading up to Monte Lake, so air resources, ground resources, working with our partners were trying to manage it as it spread in all directions."

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