Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad | Submitted photo
A lot of people know exactly where they were during the Cariboo wildfires last summer that led to a province-wide state of emergency for the first time in 14 years.
On top of all that, it was an interesting time in BC politics as the Liberals won the election that spring, only to lose the confidence vote.
Nechako Lakes MLA, John Rustad was the Forest Minister at the start of the crisis and remembers the weird shift in power that occurred.
“At one o’clock in the afternoon, I do believe it was on the 18th it just came to an end, I had briefings that morning and when the new cabinet was sworn in the phones were shut off, the email was shut off and it just switched over, it was like turning off a light switch. It was an interesting transition.”
The blazes meant a lot of sleepless nights for politicians who worked tirelessly to make sure the correct and most up-to-date information was being passed along.
“It was 24/7, you were going continuously or were in contact with your staff getting briefings and updates making decisions as the whole thing was going through this and you had to make sure you were getting information out to people and then all of a sudden, it stops.”
“It was an incredibly trying time. The province hasn’t seen or experienced anything like that before and a lot of people stepped up to the plate and you look back at it, it’s hard to believe entire communities like Williams Lake were evacuated, that sort of thing is unheard of.”
Rustad’s ridings consist of a lot of the Vanderhoof area who also experienced some serious fires during the crisis.
While touring some of the affected areas, Rustad encountered a very surreal experience.
“I remember one incident coming out of a fire where it was late in the afternoon, maybe four o’clock and the sky went black and you’re thinking what is going on, the street lights had come on and this is the middle of summer street light don’t go on until later in the evening – at about five o’clock the sky turned to a blood red it was something out of a horror movie and was unreal to see.”
“Later that night as the rainstorm came, all the ash that was in the air got washed out from the rain, it was surreal.”
Rustad hopes a lot of the support will still be there for some of the victims as over $100 million dollars in relief funding is still available through the Red Cross and hopes some of that funding is loosened up.