Cathedral reopens as fire activity diminishes

Diamond Creek Fire activity diminished to a point Cathedral Provincial Park near Keremeos reopened.

Twenty-four days closed cost Cathedral Lakes Lodge the revenue from 270 guest stays and although that’s concerning there are bigger fears the loss to the business will go on for years.

Glenda Patterson, operator of the lodge said that between flooding, smoke and then fires in the Interior this year – that it’s going to take mass marketing to bring back tourism numbers.

The lodge and Cathedral Provincial Park was closed by the province at the end of August and was not reopened until earlier this week because of fears the Diamond Creek fire would enter the park.

“Overall tourism in B.C. is suffering not just us, and will be for a few years. I think every cover of every magazine there should be someone riding a bike in the Okanagan or a horse in the Cariboo. People should be fly fishing or there should be a goat picture. Everyone needs a reminder. British Columbians need to come to the Interior and support the Interior.”

Patterson said when fires ripped through Kelowna in 2003 the lodge was affected from all the negative press.

“It took about three years to get tourism back to the level it was. I don’t know what will happen if we have another hot, dry year. That’ll be interesting. We’ll just hope for the best.”

Word got out Monday that the park was finally reopened. The lodge will be open for a few weeks, but at this point the “phones are quiet,” she said.

There’s no specific closing date, but Patterson said staff needs to start turning the focus on closing the lodge for the winter.

“It’s generally not full this time of year, but people love the fall. Usually we would have 20 or 30 people but right now maybe there’s 10. This type of operation is really one where people pre-book and pre-plan.”

Patterson said the fire caused no physical damage to the lodge. The closest it burned was within about 5 kilometres of the buildings.

“There was certainly some fear there with the wind and the hot days. I think if this had happened earlier in August when we had the hot days and the wind it could have been different. We’re lucky that it happened now because it’s really cooling off.”

The Diamond Creek Fire caused weeks of heavy smoke in the valley floor before it finally crossed the U.S. Canada border on Aug. 29.

As of Tuesday morning the fire was burning 12,245 hectares in Canada and 39,271 hectares in the U.S.

Justine Hunse, information officer for B.C. Wildfire Service, said at this point crews were only assessing the fire.

“Operation wise the latest I heard was that we were regularly accessing the site by helicopter just to make sure it’s not doing anything we didn’t expect it to. The fire is not posing any significant risk to public safety.”

The Diamond Creek Fire started July 23 in the Pasayten Wilderness in Washington State. The fire has been deemed to be human caused.

On the U.S. side the fire is considered to be 70 per cent contained.

There are no estimates on when the fire might be extinguished.