A charred utility pole in the Cariboo. (BC Hydro)

EMBC to deliver satellite phones to wildfire-affected areas

Agency warns that regular communications could go down

A Cariboo communications tower, which provides landline telephones and internet, cellphone, and data services to a large area from Riske Creek to Bella Coola, has not been damaged by the flames.

The BC Hydro pole, which is shared by Telus, “has been at risk for some time,” said Emergency Management BC deputy minister Robert Turner. “I know BC Wildfire has been prioritizing suppression efforts to make sure it’s not damaged.”

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Telus spokesperson Liz Sauve confirmed that the company has not lost any infrastructure due to the wildfires.

“In some areas where power was cut off, we were able to keep cell towers running on generator, and our crews would go in and refuel the generators when safe, generally accompanied by emergency response crews,” Sauve said. “In the Ashcroft-Cache Creek corridor, we had some lines burned, but were able to restore those as soon as it was safe and they are now back up and running in advance of evacuees returning home.”

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If the Riske Creek utility pole was damaged, EMBC is prepared to offer alternate communication to the affected residents. The BC Wildfire Service is planning to drop off 5-6 satellite phones in First Nation communities along Hwy. 20 on Tuesday. Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District will also receive one satellite phone each.

But despite the province’s efforts to save the communications tower, Turner warned people to be prepared for the worst.

“People who are in that area need to be aware that they could lose this service,” he said. “That may include going to the bank machine to ensure you have cash, gas stations to make sure you have fuel but also let people let outside the area know that if this happens, they may not be able to reach you.”


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