Onlookers watch from the parking lot at Jim's Market in Little Fort as smoke billows up from a fire northeast of the community near Joseph Creek.

Year in Review: May – August, 2017

A lightning storm on July 7 caused major fires to break out around Little Fort

Continued fromlast week. May

Provincial candidates Dan Hines of the Green Party, Barb Nederpel of the NDP, and Peter Milobar of the Liberals discussed forestry, ageism and education during an all-candidates forum at Clearwater Secondary School.

Close to three dozen people, most of them local, took part in a demonstration at the Spahats viewpoint to protest Canfor’s logging plans. The forest company was planning to log hundreds of hectares of critical caribou habitat in the Upper Clearwater, said Trevor Goward, one of the organizers.

There were 115,000 visitors at the Wells Gray Infocenter in 2016, up 16 per cent from the year before, according to Stephanie Molina. The Tourism Wells Gray marketing director made the report during the association’s annual general meeting.

Cross-Canada voyageurs Mike Ranta and David Jackson stopped off in Clearwater to obtain supplies. They each were pulling canoes mounted on carts and were portaging and canoeing from Bella Bella to Cape Breton Island. This country should take in more immigrants, said Ranta. “Then I could get them into canoes and make real Canadians out of them,” he said.

Former Barriere fire chief Al Kirkwood pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of child pornography. Lawyers were to meet later to set a date for sentencing. Kirkwood had also been publisher of the Clearwater Times and the Barriere Star/Journal.

Students at Blue River School took part in safety presentations by RCMP, the fire department, BC Ambulance, and highway rescue.

UNBC put on a traveling roadshow at Clearwater Secondary School to encourage students to consider health care as a career. This community had been the site of the first traveling health care traveling roadshow in 2010, and since then a number of local students have chosen to go into medicine, pharmacy and other health care related fields.

A Johnny Cash tribute concert by David James and his Big River Band at the Clearwater Legion was sold out.

BC Liberal Peter Milobar was elected MLA for the Kamloops-North Thompson but students in school elections held across the riding voted in favor of Dan Hines of the Green Party.

A washout at Deer Creek in Wells Gray Park trapped several travelers at Clearwater Lake. Cause appeared to be the collapse of a beaver dam, said parks contractor Merlin Blackwell.

About 360 students from grades 6 to 9 took part in the North Thompson Yes2Know Youth Summit at Dutch Lake Community Centre. “The goal is to empower youth with knowledge,” said one of the organizers.

Students at CSS put on two plays, “The Audition” and “Drop Dead Disco.”

There were between 180 and 190 participants in Clearwater’s May Day parade. Total number of floats was 13, organizers reported.

District of Clearwater gave the initial zoning go-ahead for a community care facility to be located next to Highway 5 east of the roundabout. The property’s owner, Ron Rotzetter, had previously tried to get the property re-zoned for a shopping centre.

Sandy Toma retired as manager of Clearwater’s Buy-Low store. He had started working with what was then Safety Mart 44 years earlier. Glenn Hyokki took over as manager in his place.

A 30 km/hr speed zone was reinstated on the stretch of Old North Thompson Highway next to Dutch Lake beach. The speed zone signs had been put up the previous fall, only to be taken down again following a public outcry.June

Winds in Clearwater reached 91 km/hr, the highest recorded as a storm lashed the southern Interior, but the most damage appeared to have occurred in Wells Gray Park. About 150 trees came down in and around Clearwater Lake campsite and two trailers were hit by falling trees, said park contractor Merlin Blackwell.

A meeting in Upper Clearwater Hall with Carol Schaffer, TNRD director for Area A (Wells Gray Country), looked at a variety of community issues. Upper Clearwater Farmers Institute secretary Nick Frost asked about ways the hall’s grant-in-aid might be increased.

Nearly all of Clearwater Valley Road from Highway 5 to Helmcken Falls would be re-paved that summer, highways area manager Hilary Barnett said in an email. Parking for visitors at Moul Falls was to be improved as well.

About 300 kids in 21 teams (seven in each of U8, U10 and U13 divisions) took part in the fourth annual Footy Festival at Clearwater Secondary School. The young soccer players came from Barriere, Ashcroft and Lillooet as well as Clearwater.

Wildlife biologist Mirjam Barreuto started working with Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing to study wolverines. Partnering with the ski company would enable her to set out hundreds of bait stations over the course of three seasons.

District of Clearwater reconfigured the hill on Clearwater Village Road from Wells Gray Inn to the firehall have two vehicle lanes plus a multi-use bike lane instead of three vehicle lanes. CAO Leslie Groulx noted that the change had been recommended by the District’s trails task force.

High water in the North Thompson River threatened to undercut the road that runs from the old planer mill site on the Flats in Clearwater to the Highway 5 bridge. The road had been closed to vehicle traffic for several years.

Several Clearwater firefighters attended a funeral for Cache Creek fire chief Clayton Cassidy. He had been swept into a creek during a flood.

A raffle held during a softball tournament raised $307 to help Birch Island’s Savannah Dee to go to the Indigenous Games. The games were to be held in Toronto in late July.

Residents of Upper Clearwater and elsewhere were waiting for a decision on an appeal under the federal Species at Risk Act to stop logging in the Upper Clearwater Valley. Trevor Goward, one of the organizers, said the Canadian Wildlife Service would make a recommendation to environment minister Catherine McKenna.

Clearwater town council approved a $280,000 contract to construct a multi-use pathway along Park Drive from the hospital to the roundabout. It also approved a $205,000 contract to replace part of the Robson Street sewer, install storm drainage and relocate a water main. Both contracts went to Borrow Enterprises.

Town council also approved a development permit for a building to be constructed next to Eden Road, despite reservations expressed about a rough sketch map submitted. The three-storey building would have commercial space on the lower two levels and a motel suite on the third level.

Peter Milobar was sworn in as the new MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson while fellow BC Liberal Todd Stone took the oath again to represent Kamloops-South Thompson. A NDP-Green coalition had 44 seats in the legislature while the Liberals had 43.

Clearwater’s U10 and U12 fastball teams both won their home tournaments. Clearwater’s U16 hosted Barriere and 100 Mile in exhibition games and won both.

The TNRD board approved spending $75,000 to construct a pedestrian bridge across Blue River in Herb Bilton Way Park. A logging bridge that was formerly in the same location had been swept away several years earlier.

Former Times publisher Carol Gardarsson passed away in Sechelt. She had been the publisher of the Barriere Star/Journal for several years before Black Press acquired the Times in 1997. She published both papers until 1999.

Disc golf events at Clearwater ski hill and Wells Gray golf course in Upper Clearwater attracted about 30 participants from all over the province.

A total of 38 students graduated from Clearwater Secondary School. The community contributed nearly $40,000 in scholarships and bursaries. Four members of the Greene family: mother Jaime, son Austin, and daughters Jessica and Aireal graduated.

Rotary exchange student Gian Fidele wrote that his time in Clearwater was “the best year of my life” before returning home to Chile.

Wells Gray Outdoors Club held an official opening ride for its new mountain bike trail system. The event was part of the first annual Summer Solstice bike and hike.July

Local residents and visitors took part in Canada Day celebrations in Blue River and Clearwater. Festivities in Blue River included the ever-popular parade, while action in Clearwater focussed on Dutch Lake beach.

Mackenzie Alain, Emily Fraser, Stacia Panko, Shawna Podbisky and Hailey Griffin were the Year 5 honor roll at Clearwater Secondary School, meaning they had been on the honor roll every term for the five years they had been at the school. Panko also received the senior all round student award at the school’s year end assembly.

Forest fires to the northeast and southwest bracketed Little Fort, causing the community to be evacuated.

READ MORE: Little Fort fires create turmoil (July 19, 2017)

An information meeting in Clearwater helped the evacuees. BC Forest Service had brought in one of its top incident management teams, the meeting was told. Jim Richardson, the incoming incident commander, said he had arrived three hours earlier with a team of eight. Kamloops Fire Centre was also fighting fires near Ashcroft and Cache Creek.

Hot and dry conditions caused BC Parks to close Wells Gray Park with little notice. Bowron Lake and other parks and protected areas in the Cariboo were closed as well.

Telus acquired Raftview Communications Ltd. from Paul and Karen Caissie. The business would operate as part of the Mascon brand (Telus’ cable operations).

An incident command team from Parks Canada took over fighting the Little Fort fire complex. Strong winds had pushed the Dunn Lake fire to within 12 km of the centre of Clearwater.

An evacuation order for Little Fort had been replaced with an evacuation alert. The areas around Dunn Lake, Hallamore Lake and East Blackpool were under evacuation orders, while Clearwater, Blackpool and Upper Clearwater were under evacuation alerts. The Dunn Lake fire was 3,040 ha in size, the Thuya Lake fire was 565 ha while the Lemieux Creek fire was 16 ha.

Patients were evacuated from Clearwater’s Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital – standard practice when an area is placed under an evacuation alert.

Firetrucks from Barriere and Merritt were helping those from Clearwater and Blackpool to do regular patrols.

Five people wearing BC Forest Service uniforms were in trouble after being photographed standing around a campfire next to Adams Lake. There was a campfire ban across the province at the time and the photos went viral on social media.

A skidder operator needed to be extricated from his machine and then evacuated after his skidder rolled down a slope. He had been trying to clear a road to get to some property he owned near the Dunn Lake fire.

Firefighters with BC Forest Service were cold-trailing the Thuya Lake fire after heavy rain slowed down its progress. “We’re not writing this fire off yet,” warned fire boss Chris Werrell, a resident of Houston, B.C.

Newly elected MLA Peter Milobar met with Clearwater and area tourism operators and other stakeholders to discuss wildfire recovery strategy. “We’re going to work with BC Parks to see how we can minimize any damage going forward,” he said.August

TNRD rescinded evacuation alerts for Hallamore Lake, McCarthy Lake, Dunn Lake and areas east and south of Little Fort – the last alerts for the Little Fort fire complex that had begun July 7.

Quick work by CN workers, Canfor employees and Vavenby firefighters put out a small grass-fire near the Canfor sawmill.

Drillers began work on a third well for Clearwater. Reg Small Park was to be closed for two weeks.

A total of 24 residential care and community patients returned to Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital in Clearwater after being evacuated when the community was put on evacuation alert. They had been taken to alternate facilities in Kamloops and Salmon Arm.

Workers installed new water and sewer lines near the corner of Park Drive and Robson Street in Clearwater.

BC Parks announced the partial closure of Wells Gray Park due to the return of hot and dry weather. Most of the major day-use sites along the highway corridor were still accessible, but the backcountry was closed to everyone except those with organized groups. Some recreation sites and trails outside the park were also closed.

Wells Gray Search and Rescue extricated a well-known local resident after he dislocated his kneecap on the Triple Decker Falls trail north of Clearwater. Tom Meland was the former manager of Clearwater Bible Camp and has worked part-time with local ambulance crews. “Praise to God I had my cellphone with me,” he said.

The province banned the use of off-road vehicles for recreational use from Crown land across pretty well the whole southern Interior. Reason for the ban was to prevent wildfires.

Multiple news media reported that swimmer Sydney Pickrem from Clearwater, B.C. had won bronze in the world championships in Budapest. Only problem was she was from Clearwater, Florida and had dual Canadian/U.S. citizenship.

Questions centered around the cost of the service and the timing of the approval process during a public information meeting held to look at a proposed Geopark for the North Thompson Valley. The proposal was going through a negative petition process, meaning that if 10 per cent of voters indicated they were against it before the deadline, it would not go ahead.

A good-sized crowd of young people and their parents took part in the Children’s Art Festival at DLCC. The first ever festival was held in 2012.

The Barriere Bruins U14 softball team won the western Canadian championships. The team included several players from Clearwater.

Clearwater RCMP (Traffic Services) fined two motorists $575 each for discarding cigarettes butts from their vehicles.

TNRD was looking at controls for vacation and short term rentals. “The development services have experienced an increase in concern from various communities and residents regarding the use of cabins and cottages as AirBNB and other short term rentals,” reported Carol Schaffer, TNRD director for Area A (Wells Gray Country).

The TNRD board approved spending up to $10,000 to fund power redundancy upgrades for the Blue River water system. The money would be used to buy a backup power connection for the pump-house.

A total of 22 pilots took part in the ninth El Nido para-glide fly-in. The smoky conditions made for a “mystic” feeling when in the air, said Willy Rens, one of the organizers.

District of Clearwater planned to use a negative approval process to measure if there was support to borrow about $315,000 to help upgrade the town’s water system. Major component of the $2.1 million project would be a new well that had recently been drilled in Reg Small Park.

Two new longterm physicians, Dr. Kayode Bamigboje and Dr. Gangadevi Lokuwattage started work at Clearwater’s Medical Centre. Dr. Kay was from Nigeria while Dr. Ganga came here from Sri Lanka. Clearwater had been down to just one longterm physician, Dr. John Soles, for several months.

One firefighter received a $1,150 fine and three others were given warnings for lighting a campfire next to Adams Lake during a province-wide campfire ban. A photo of the group had gone viral on social media.

Over 125 people – tourists, band members and other local residents – took part in Simpcw First Nation’s First Fish ceremony at the Raft River viewing platform. The annual event had been cancelled the previous two years because of deaths in the band.

Clearwater Trout Hatchery celebrated its 20th anniversary. “The hatchery looks quite different than it did 20 years ago,” said Geoff Giesbrecht, assistant manager and one of two employees who have been there since the early days. Before being taken over as a trout hatchery, the facility was used for raising salmon.

Continued next week.

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