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B.C. resort plans ambitious rebuild and reopening after devastating wildfire

Click to play video: 'B.C. rafting and yoga resort to reopen this summer after being destroyed by fire'
B.C. rafting and yoga resort to reopen this summer after being destroyed by fire
The REO Rafting and Yoga Resort near Boston Bar will reopen on June 1, less than one year after the facility was almost completely destroyed by the Kookipi Creek wildfire. Aaron McArthur reports. – Jan 1, 2024

The REO Rafting and Yoga Resort was nearly wiped off the map when the Kookipi Creek wildfire tore through more than 17,000 hectares of forest around the Fraser Canyon last August.

Nearly everything on the resort’s property, from buildings to busses and infrastructure, was reduced to ash.

“There was a lot of sadness and heartbreak initially, of course. And we’re trying to figure out our way through this very difficult path. And so now we’re trying to focus on the positive,” owner Bryan Fogleman said.

Now, after months of hard work and a successful online fundraising campaign, the resort’s owners said, against all odds, they’ll be ready to reopen June 1.

Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfires: REO Resort destroyed in Kookipi Creek fire'
B.C. wildfires: REO Resort destroyed in Kookipi Creek fire

With no fire insurance, Fogleman said they were forced to get creative to keep the business operating. A GoFundMe page has raised more than $100,000. Many of the funds were used to get the resort to where it is now.

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Fogleman said it’s a tight timeline, but he isn’t wasting any time. He said the fall was spent clearing trees, repairing the road, and doing all the necessary work to hit the ground running once spring arrives.

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The resort may consider naming rights for its new yoga and wellness centre and sponsorships to help pay for the rebuild.

“We’re just going to be very creative in how we’re able to pull this off. And so we have a lot of great ideas,” Fogleman said.

Having been in operation for four decades, the facility is being rebuilt to meet the new realities of climate change and the risk of future wildfires in the area.

Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfires: Kookipi Creek wildfire burning on both sides of Hwy.1'
B.C. wildfires: Kookipi Creek wildfire burning on both sides of Hwy.1

Fogleman said the new facility will rely more in solar power and all propane tanks and water pipes will be buried in the ground.

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The tents next to the river were spared the flames and will be the resort’s housing for the crews helping with the rebuild. He said they will then be opened to guests and the resort will run at around 50 to 60 per cent capacity to start.

“We feel that’s a comfortable level and we can provide fantastic amenities for the guests that arrive,” said Fogleman, adding he will only be able to bring on about half the normal number of staff he usually schedules for the season.

The outpouring of community support has been astounding, according to Fogleman, who added some people have even offered to volunteer their time to help with the rebuild.

“Initially, we weren’t very comfortable with the idea that we needed community support because we’re a very proud family-run business,” he said. “But the support’s been amazing and a lot of it is just emotional support.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfires: Fraser Canyon evacuees living with uncertainty'
B.C. wildfires: Fraser Canyon evacuees living with uncertainty

Through the fire smoke, Fogelman said he sees a silver lining and a chance not only to expand the resort’s amenities, but also focus on education.

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“We’ve had a huge fire hit our valley. So I think there’s an opportunity for us to provide more education to our guests about nature and some of the issues that are going to pop up around Canada in the future.”

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