This plume of wildfire smoke, one of many in the Nazko area, was near the family ranch of Nazko First Nation chief Leah Stump. (Photo submitted by Leah Stump)

Nazko stands strong in face of flames west of Quesnel

Forest fires burn in numbers in Nazko territory

Some rural communities near Quesnel were in particular wildfire danger, as a collection of forest fires roared to the west of the city. Some had to be evacuated, while many others were on alert.

A community particularly impacted was the Nazko First Nation less than an hour’s drive from Quesnel.

“The Nazko community was surrounded by three separate fires and it causes fear for everyone,” said chief Leah Stump. “The fires this year have come too close to one of our communities where our oldest elders reside and they were once again evacuated from their home.”

Many of the biggest forest fires of note in the region were all on the doorstep of Nazko residents. The Teepee Lake, Pelican Lake, and Branch Road fires were the main threats to the many homes and other structures in the Nazko realm, but there were other nearby fires as well such as Gatcho Lake, Trumpeter Mountain, Davidson Creek, Corkscrew Creek, Lucas Lake, and many more.

“The impact of the fires has a devastating effect on the community members every time they are driven from their homes due to wildfires,” said chief Stump.

The problems go beyond just worry over homes and property. Almost everyone in B.C. this year, and many other provinces as well, have endured prolonged periods of smoke and ash in the air. Every breath taken, in those conditions, has an effect even on the healthiest of people.

“The effects from the thick smoke from the fires causes many respiratory problems from the youth to the elders and creates a heavy, sad feeling for our community and community members,” Stump said.

She added that while many people who face a forest fire are concerned about losing a home, these fires have been devastating to other values like sawmill timber supply, rangeland for cattle, and for the Nazko people it is both destroying their land-based larder and blocking the sun needed for natural plantlife to grow in a healthy way.

“The seasonal traditional activities that are displaced by the fire leaves stress, forcing our community members that rely on the land to find another way to gather and collect,” she explained. That has only been exacerbated by the drought hitting at the same time.

“I’m very proud of the partnership that we have with the B.C. wildfire organizations,” Stump said. “Their quick response to fight fires has saved homes and lives. The communication that our community received has been top notch with the daily updates, community visits, telecommunications and email notifications.

“I would like to also thank the members of the Nazko Valley for their communication and willingness to work together. And lastly the biggest thank you to the Nazko community members as they are the heroes that have stood beside us as the leaders of our community and given us strength and direction to do what we have to do to keep our community of Nazko safe. From time immemorial we have been faced with many natural disasters and yet the community holds strong.”

READ MORE: Firefighters contain two key Quesnel forest fires

READ MORE: Nazko guide-outfitter looking for stewardship from Province after wildfires

B.C. Wildfires 2023CaribooQuesnel