Flooding, house fires, strike local First Nations 

School children billeted to homes after road washed out

Nine Douglas First Nations’ school children were stranded for three days recently after Lillooet west forestry service road washed out.

The children were being transported to Head of the Lake School in Skatin via school bus Nov. 6 but couldn’t make it back home again to their Tipella home after the road washed out at Fire Creek bridge, mile 73, on the road. The school children ended up being billeted in homes in the tiny community until the road cleared Thursday afternoon.

Accommodation, food, and winter clothing for the children, were arranged by Lower Stl’atl’imx tribal council from their administration office in Pemberton.

Patricia Ritchie is the tribal council’s emergency preparedness officer. She received a phone call Monday morning saying the road was not passable.

“They (the school bus) tried to turn around and take the kids home but the culvert was washed out.”

At the same time a house fire had erupted in Samaquaham, 10 kilometres north of Skatin, and Ritchie swung into action, making calls to arrange for supplies to be delivered to both emergencies.

Seven of the nine stranded school children belonged to one family and Ritchie said she stayed in touch with the children’s parents throughout the situation via Head of the Lake’s Internet system.

“They (school staff) were messaging me all day long, keeping me updated as to what was going on,” she said. “It was the first time I’d ever encountered this, but I knew something like this could happen.”

In 2003 a helicopter evacuation of some members from the isolated community had to be undertaken due to flooding.

Douglas Chief Darryl Peters said emergency preparedness plans will have to be reviewed in light of the November washout that stranded children from the community of 80.

In other news, Tipella resident Patricia Peters narrowly escaped a fire that claimed her one-bedroom cottage Nov. 20. The early morning fire started in a chimney and Peters escaped at about 4:30 a.m. Located near the edge of the village, the home could not be saved.

“She just made it out in her nightie,” said Charles Peters, Lower Stl’atl’imx tribal council administrator. Peters is staying with her daughter in Mission. The elder lost everything she owned in the fire, including her vehicle that was parked beside the house. Emergency social services has provided her with some clothing but donations are being accepted at the tribal council office in Pemberton’s industrial park.

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