‘Let help in’: Protest in Burns Lake after trucks loaded with firefighting equipment get turned away

WATCH: Residents south of Burns Lake form a blockade after a convoy of firefighting equipment sent to their community was denied access. Jill Bennett reports.

Frustrations over how the wildfires are being fought in parts of B.C.’s Northern Interior are boiling over.

Wildfires are threatening a community along Francois Lake south of Burns Lake, but when a convoy of firefighting equipment was denied access to the area, residents who defied an evacuation order were up in arms and started a blockade.

READ MORE: Cool Creek wildfire west of Keremeos grows to 13,000 hectares

Truckers from Alberta had hoped to bring a high-capacity water delivery system to the south side of Francois Lake, where about 100 people have remained despite an evacuation order.

The trucks were denied access to a ferry to get to the south of the village.

In a statement, the B.C. Wildfire Service said the equipment was “not a useful suppression tool for this particular fire.”

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“Recently, a high-capacity water delivery system was brought to Burns Lake to be assessed as a structural protection tool for the fires in the Babine Complex,” the statement said.

“In areas of the fire where this tool would be most effective, the water sources were insufficient, the terrain was challenging and there was significant distance between structures.”

Burns Lake Fire Rescue said Saturday that the owner of the company that brought the equipment assessed the situation and found that “the only area they could deploy was Southbank ferry terminal, where they are not needed.”

“This is very specialized equipment, and unfortunately it was not the right type for what [The BC Wildfire Service] needed.”

READ MORE: B.C. wildfires Friday: Season now third worst in burned land, new evacuations ordered

On Saturday morning, angry residents held a rally by the trucks in the hopes that they be put to use, rather than sent back to Alberta.

One resident held up a sign that read, “Let help in!”

Resident Ginger Moyah said the trucks are a symptom of a bigger problem.

“My biggest frustration hasn’t just been with these trucks,” she said. “The residents who have chosen to stay are not getting the support they’re asking for.”
WATCH: Water bombers fill up on way to fight fire burning near Burns Lake
Water bombers fill up on way to fight fire burning near Burns Lake
Water bombers fill up on way to fight fire burning near Burns Lake
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Dana Glanville says 100 to 150 residents of her community on the south side of Francois Lake in central B.C. chose to stay after an evacuation order was issued for the region.

The former forestry technician dismisses any suggestion that the decision to remain is naive, saying the loggers, farmers and contractors who remain all have extensive firefighting experience under their belts.

Rise Johansen and her husband are among the last remaining residents in the nearby community of Takysie, which has about 20 homes.

Johansen says if they feel there is an imminent threat, they’ll get out.

“The people that have stayed are more than capable of fighting for their homes if they have the proper equipment and support,” Moyah said. “I hope they get it.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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