Police say Mounties were confronted by a group of people intent on crossing a roadblock on Highway 1 to access an evacuation order area in the Shuswap.
The incident occurred Wednesday evening, Aug. 23, after Chase RCMP received reports of a large group of people mustering with food and supplies destined for the evacuation order area in the North Shuswap.
“It appeared that the intentions of those involved were to overwhelm the police roadblock and gain access into the area…,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. James Grandy in a media release. “The group later challenged the BC RCMP officers stationed at the roadblock into the area currently under order.”
Grandy said an increased police presence has been in place in response to “ongoing efforts by some individuals who have undermined BC Wildfire Service fire suppression work through the movement of vital equipment and have compromised emergency personnel safety through threats of violence.”
He stressed the evacuation order area is not safe due to continued fire activity, as well as damage to powerlines and unstable trees and structures.
“While we understand and sympathize with the residents of the North Shuswap, there is a process in place through the local Emergency Operations Centre that needs to be followed to ensure the safety of everyone,” said Grandy. “When the EOC deems it safe to do so, they can issue passes into the area to support a resupply. Fortunately, our officers are well trained, were able to de-escalate and the situation was quickly resolved safely without incident.”
No arrests were made and no charges are anticipated.
A post shared on Facebook by a “Convoy of Truth and Freedom” called for a gathering at 6 p.m. at the Shuswap Community Centre parking lot that would leave promptly at 6:20 p.m., travelling down the Trans-Canada Highway to Sorrento.
On Wednesday evening, the BC Wildfire Service shared and quickly removed a social media post stating in response to safety concerns, its unit crews, heavy equipment operators and structural firefighters would be reassigned from the North Shuswap to other areas of the Bush Creek East and Rossmore Lake wildfires.
BC Wildfire clarified its position, Thursday morning, stating crews will focus on the Little Shuswap Lake area, the Loakin Valley, and the Turtle Valley.
“As we engage with our partners at the RCMP and CSRD we will determine operational activities throughout the rest of today, tomorrow, and going forward. The top priority of our response is to keep people safe,” said BCWS.
Fire information officer Forest Tower said the incident management team and BC Wildfire Service are continuing to move forward in a collaborative way, involving the community and engaging in dialogue in terms of collaborative work happening in North Shuswap.
“We recognize that most individuals in the North Shuswap area are working towards to same goal as the BC Wildfire Service – containment of the Bush Creek wildfire. We ask for the continued support of the north Shuswap community to keep the area safe for everyone.”
Word of the convoy did not sit well with North Shuswap citizens still fighting the fires in the evacuation order areas, who recently met with BC Wildfire Service personnel with the intent of working together.
“I’ve been trying to provide information for my community as to what’s going on, the majority, 95 per cent, that is sitting out there in Kamloops or Salmon Arm or Calgary or Edmonton or wherever the hell they are waiting out this tragedy, trying to provide information with a modicum of levity,” said CSRD North Shuswap director Jay Simpson.
He only found out about the convoy post a few hours after the scheduled 6 p.m. meeting time.
“That somebody then takes this and twists it into some nasty, right-wing bulls—t is…unbelievable. To add this to the tragedy we’ve just lived through and are trying to recover from is so sad.”
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter