Monica Lamb-Yorski photo. As the wildfire situation continues in the Williams Lake area, major industry says it is putting the safety of its employees first including at Mount Polley and Gibraltar mines where many workers have been either evacuated or put on evacuation alert. This is the view toward downtown at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Williams Lake mines hurting for staff as wildfires ravage area

While the wildfires in and around Williams Lake are not impacting local mines directly, many employees are under evacuation orders or alerts

The wildfire situation in the Williams Lake area is impacting the lives of many employees working at local mines.

“At this time the fires are not directly effecting the mining operation, but both employees and supply lines have been impacted,” Imperial Metals vice-president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson told the Tribune Tuesday. “Fires are threatening the homes of many employees who live in the Williams Lake area. Some of our employees have been evacuated and cannot make it work and many of the roads used to access the mine site are currently closed.”

Robertson said employees are reassigned as required.

“For example, the mill did not operate last night, but is back up running this morning,” Robertson said. “The company is wanting the employees to look after things on the home front as a first priority and we support that.”

United Steelworkers Union Local 1-425 president Paul French said that all the big industry in and around Williams Lake is worrying about employees and people first and then, of course concentrating on their investments and operations.

“But I think it’s a really important gesture that all the major employers as well as some of the small businesses are really looking out for the people,” French said.

French has been stuck in Prince George since the weekend.

“I was in Edmonton. The kids were playing ball up here and I couldn’t get back because we didn’t leave Edmonton until Sunday.”

French said he visited the evacuation centre at College of New Caledonia and saw many people from the Williams Lake area.

“Everyone seems quite – well they are quite nervously happy if I can say that,” he said of the evacuees. “They are in good spirits but pretty worried.”

When asked what it looks like in Prince George Tuesday morning French said it was smoky and the sun was bright.

Robertson said many Red Chris Mine employees also live in the Williams Lake area, and have been evacuated from their homes or are on evacuation alert.

With the temporary closure of the Williams Lake airport, Red Chris charter flights from Williams Lake to Dease Lake have also been cancelled.

“We are reorganizing our crews and adjusting charter flights into Dease Lake to maintain staffing levels at the Red Chris mine,” he added.

Taseko Mines Ltd. vice-president of corporate affairs Brian Battison said the fires have not directly impacted mine operations at Gibraltar Mines near Williams Lake, but they are having impacts on employees who live in communities currently under evacuation order or alert.

“The highest priority and obligation for our employees is the safety and security of their homes and families,” Battison said Tuesday.

With Williams Lake under evacuation alert some employees are attending to that higher priority and shift schedules are being adjusted accordingly, he added.

“The mine is currently operating however the severity of the fires in the region presents a dynamic and evolving situation, so should things change a statement regarding operation status will be published.”