Salmon Arm  

CSRD kicks off wildfire meeting series in Sorrento, hearing resident feedback, experiences

Dozens at wildfire debrief

Sorrento was the first stop for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District's Community Conversations event series, part of the CSRD's efforts to hear from residents impacted by the 2023 Bush Creek East wildfire that devastated the region.

About 30 people attended the first event, which was held in the Sorrento Community Hall on Thursday evening.

The event began with a 20 minute presentation outlining the roles and responsibilities of the regional district during emergencies. Several stations were set up around the room, with CSRD staff on hand to answer questions and listen to residents.

Tracy Hughes, communications coordinator for the CSRD, said the regional district wants these events to help rebuild community trust.

“We understand that people have really gone through something as a community, as a region, that has kind of tested everybody's faith and trust,” Hughes said.

“And so we're here tonight to work towards that rebuilding. We understand that rebuilding needs to happen so that we can work together and move forward.”

After the presentation, residents were encouraged to go around the room to the various stations and share their experiences, or ask questions to various CSRD staff members and area directors who were in attendance.

Mel Arnold, North Okanagan-Shuswap MP, also attended the event and spent time talking to local residents.

Marty Gibbons, CSRD director for Electoral Area C, was present, as well as Natalya Melnychuk, director of Electoral Area G, which includes Sorrento.

Melnychuk said she thought the event was a promising start.

“I think this is a really good kickoff to the series of events that we're going to be having, it's been cordial and people are willing to come out and talk,” Melnychuk said, “I mean you can hear the noise in the room, right?”

“It's really good to hear because it's all about listening, so I'm happy,” she added.

Melnychuk said she thought the event format was a good choice.

“It's an opportunity for people to learn and interact and share their stories in a way, so that everyone is heard in a respectful way and in a way that is respectful to staff as well," Melnychuk said. "They have also gone through a very stressful experience in terms of managing this, and seeing their own communities burn and their neighbours threatened in the face of that wildfire.”

She acknowledged that Sorrento’s experience with the fires wasn’t the same as other areas.

“Sorrento had a very different experience than the North Shuswap,” Melnychuk said. “Obviously, there was a lot more destruction and damage, and there’s recovery that needs to happen there. So it’s going to be a different conversation there.”

This was the first in a series of meetings the CSRD is hosting. The next Community Conversations event is set to take place on Saturday, March 9, in the North Shuswap elementary school gym in Celista.

Two more in-person meetings are scheduled, followed by two online events.

More information on the series and a full schedule of events can be found on the CSRD's webpage.

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