People affected by the Rock Creek fire will be given an extension on the waiving of tipping fees for fire-affected debris taken to the landfill. After a lengthy discussion at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB) board of directors meeting on April 21, directors voted to allow the extension.
After a lengthy discussion, John MacLean, RDKB CAO, read his recommendation aloud at the board meeting: “My recommendation is that we identify the people, who they are. We identify the material that’s going to go [to the landfill]. We provide those families [affected] the necessary paperwork to go through.”
McLean also suggested that staff inspect the loads ahead of time. “We could ask one of our staff members who travel through the Boundary to stop by the identified property owners and say yep,” he said. “What I’m starting to be afraid of is it getting too big, too wide and staff having to say you’ve got a quarter load of burned out cement and three quarters of a load of an old outbuilding you tore down last year. I don’t want to end up in that argument. I don’t want to end up having to take trees. I understand there’s a lot of concern about the dead trees. Using the landfill for that kind of thing is just not effective.”
The final resolution stated: “Through (RDKB Area E) Director Gee offering to communicate with the burned out properties in the Rock Creek/Westbridge area that we extend the opportunity for waiving of tipping fees of burned materials. That the properties taking advantage had been previously identified and screened by RDKB staff prior to going to the landfill. That the appropriate paperwork is prepared for the scale attendants to allow these folks to take advantage of what we’re offering until the end of May.”
Bringing the idea forward to the board was Area E/West Boundary Director Vicki Gee, who was happy to see the temporary concession pass. “I’m really pleased with the notion of staff going out to people’s property,” said Gee. “It makes it really fair. The other thing that’s really good about that is I’ve talked to regional district staff and they don’t always come out this way. So it’s really good to see them come out this far. They’re not always heading up Highway 33. It’ll be good for them to see what it looks like up that way. I know we still don’t have a solution for all the burned trees standing or fallen. I’m still pursuing some of those options. But it’s great for people to have that image in their minds.”
Gee said she brought it forward because there were several people who told her they still have burned out material to remove. Gee said it wasn’t easy to organize the removal of the rubble the last time around. “It was complicated by the fact that some of it was paid for by the Red Cross for people with no insurance and some of it by people with insurance themselves,” she said. “They were all vying for the same operators to come and get it and then, of course, it could only be done on certain days because the landfill was closed.”
In all there were 30 properties with a dwelling and 20 outbuildings destroyed by the fires. Gee said that the notion came with the melting of the snow and more people starting to rebuild.
“A lot of people whose houses burned weren’t living here in the winter because there was nowhere to live,” she said. “Now they’re starting to get back to work.”
RDKB Area E/West Boundary director Vicki Gee said that the regional district still has no plan for removing all the burned trees in the Rock Creek/Westbridge fire area.
“The bigger issue remaining is the vast number of burned trees on people’s properties along the road side,” she said. “I’m getting calls all the time from people saying that it looks like they live in a disaster zone. We’re trying to recover here.”
Gee said FortisBC did come by and fell a number of trees that could’ve threatened power lines but then left them all behind.
Gee said it is quite a process to remove the trees from a property. “You actually have to apply for a timber mark,” she said. “It helps them keep track of the trees. There was talk of a joint timber mark of the area. It’s just been hard. We’ve been dealing with 50 property owners. It’s hard to come up with a common solution.”
Adding to the issue is the fact that no one really knows what to do with the trees.
“You can’t chip them because you can’t put burnt wood through a chipper,” she said. “There are grinders that will grind them but they are extraordinarily expensive to move into the area. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars and they would have to be moved from place to place to place. At this moment in time there is no solution that I can see for the burned trees on people’s properties.”
Gee said that with no provincial government stepping forward and property owners with other issues to deal with, the burned trees are staying put. “There’s literally nowhere to take them,” she said. “A lot of it is really burned and not that useful. People are living on those properties and those trees could pose safety hazards. It certainly poses quality of life hazards—it looks as though they’re in a war zone.”