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Police say no deliveries to evacuation order areas will be supported by police

No deliveries to evac areas

UPDATE: 3:25 p.m.

Residents in the North Shuswap are frustrated that efforts to get supplies to locals helping fight the Bush Creek wildfire are being blocked, but police say people remaining inside evacuation order areas are risking their own safety, and no deliveries can be supported without proper authorization.

Several people have told Castanet they are frustrated with the RCMP, as officers are stopping deliveries intended to help those who stayed behind to protect properties as the Bush Creek East wildfire swept through the area.

BC RCMP Staff Sgt. Kris Clark said RCMP sympathize with those impacted by wildfires, but noted their role is to prevent people from entering areas under evacuation order in order to allow BC Wildfire Service crews to do their work unobstructed.

Clark said Chase RCMP learned of a planned delivery of food and water to Scotch Creek through Blind Bay.

“The delivery had been procured under false pretences, as the company believed it was to support residents within an area not subject to an evacuation order when it was actually destined for a location within the evacuation order area,” Clark said.

“No deliveries can be supported into an active fire area currently under evacuation order that have not been properly authorized by BC Wildfire Service as well as the local regional district.”

Clark said the role of RCMP is to secure evacuation order areas from criminality and to ensure firefighters can work unobstructed. He said those who remain behind are risking their own safety as well as the safety of emergency crews.

“We are aware that there are a number of local firefighters operating within the order area, using personal vehicles,” said Clark.

“Anyone caught within an area under order in unofficial vehicles will be stopped by police.”

Clark said the increase in police presence is in response to continued efforts by some individuals who have moved or tampered with wildfire equipment.

“We must emphasize that leaving an area subject to an Evacuation Order is critical to personal safety and allows fires crews to complete the necessary work to combat these destructive wildfires,” Clark said.

ORIGINAL: 4:00 a.m.

Some North Shuswap residents say they are frustrated that an increased police presence in areas under evacuation order seem to be hampering grassroots efforts to get resources to locals who decided to stay behind and protect their properties.

On Monday, a joint statement from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Thompson-Nicola Regional District, BC Wildfire Service and RCMP said more police have been dispatched to the North Shuswap because firefighting equipment has been moved or taken, impacting fire suppression efforts.

Dan Ashton, a Celista resident and volunteer firefighter, told Castanet he takes issue with police who have been asking residents to stay off roadways during the evacuation order.

“They need to watch for looting, absolutely. They can pull people over and check them, but to threaten them that they're going to arrest them and not let locals in,” Ashton said.

“We need all the help we can get. We need people here to keep putting out spot fires.”

Ashton said police aren’t allowing locals to leave their properties, despite the protests of many who have stayed behind to help put out spot fires and assist in fire suppression.

“They can't be on the road or anything. It’s garbage. They're doing stuff that has to be done. We can't function as firefighters without the backing of the community, people helping us,” said Ashton.

The CSRD said in its statement on Monday that it understands residents want to remain in areas under evacuation order to protect properties.

“We must stress this decision puts both you and our tireless responders at high risk and directly conflicts with the issued evacuation order,” the regional district said.

John MacLean, Columbia Shuswap Regional District CAO, told Castanet that people are allowed to ignore an order.

“But we make it very clear — they’re to stay on their property and they’re to be self sufficient," added MacLean.

“You're allowed to stay on your property, you don't move around. And if you move around, you'll be asked to stay and you're going to be self sufficient. We're not bringing in supplies for you.”

MacLean said the CSRD has received reports firefighting equipment has been stolen, damaged or moved to new locations, posing challenges to crews. He said the presence of people in evacuation orders has “hampered” firefighting efforts.

“It should be abundantly clear that it's dangerous to everybody,” said MacLean.

“The way to ensure that we keep lives — which is our first priority, to protect life — is to obey an evacuation order.”

When asked about volunteers staying behind to assist firefighting efforts, MacLean said they “should leave that to the professionals.”

Stefani Koobrin, a resident whose family lives near Celista, said a friend who chose to stay behind told her police were stopping boaters from dropping off supplies to those who chose to stay on their properties.

“We're talking about food and gas and Gatorade and hot dogs,” she said.

Koobrin said RCMP have set up roadblocks to stop people from entering evacuation order areas, with some carrying food and supplies being turned away from the communities.

Bob Taylor, owner of a property in Scotch Creek, said he brought up water trucks from his company in Surrey to help put out spot fires.

“The trucks we were going to provide, they are big tandem trucks, big water tanks, high pressure pumps on them, long hoses,” Taylor said.

“They'd be extremely efficient, and we're not allowed to go up there. I don't understand this.”

Forrest Tower, BC Wildfire Service fire information officer, said police are active in the North Shuswap area as BCWS has been seeing equipment being removed or possibly stolen, affecting fire suppression efforts.

“There's always opportunists when there's an evacuation order area that go in and try and steal stuff. And so that's a part of the increased RCMP presence and the increased blockade,” said Tower.

Tower said typically, residents who remain in an area under evacuation order are left to do as they please, including walking around and helping with firefighting efforts.

“The RCMP usually doesn't bother them, or we're not kicking people out,” said Tower

“The issue here is that people are actively taking things, and that's more [what] their response is trying to stop.”

BCWS has reported that pumps, sprinklers, hoses and ATV's have been moved and taken.

In a news release, BC RCMP Staff Sgt. Kris Clark said attempts to interfere with first responder’s efforts, intimidating responders or tampering with emergency equipment won’t be tolerated and could result in criminal charges.

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