There was a lot of welcome news in the Town of Princeton Tuesday.
Not only was the nearby wildfire contained to 60 per cent, evacuees of 47 properties in the Jura and Princeton Summerland Road areas were permitted to go back to their homes at noon – just hours before The Spotlight went to press.
The properties, according to an RDOS information release, are still under evacuation alert.
The decision, made by the Regional District, leaves 303 properties in the region still under evacuation.
Lyle Thomas, municipal information officer, said he does not believe evacuation orders for homes on Highway 5A or Summers Creek Road will be rescinded in the immediate future.
“The latest information I have received…is that those areas are considered active and the major concern is the rock and debris that are coming onto the road. They want to wait until it’s safe,” said Thomas. “I don’t anticipate any immediate changes on Highway 5A and Summers Creek Road but that is being assessed every day.”
The Emergency Social Services evacuation centre at Riverside is dialing down its efforts, as it has been more than a week since any properties have been evacuated, he said.
Originally operating 24-hours a day, the centre changed its hours from 9 am to 4 pm and those times are likely to be further reduced, said Thomas.
“We are still active and we are still doing the work that is necessary but definitely the intake has really slowed right down. I think if the fire situation continues to improve you will probably see us ramp down.”
Thomas said the function of the centre and its volunteers is also changing.
“It’s becoming more of an information centre now. There are always people looking for updated information. We have good mapping on the walls. We are organizing and providing for public information meetings and there are a lot of inquiries coming from outside the district – family and friends looking to know what is happening.”
Those residents still under evacuation are expected to eventually make their own arrangements for accommodation, said Thomas.
Initially the ESS centre provided food and lodging vouchers for three days. The province extended that funding for an additional week.
“From there we will be expecting people will transition to their own [resources], homeowners’ insurance and other means. If there are further emergency-type situations and people don’t have those means it would be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”
Thomas said the evacuation centre has all the donations it needs of food, water and supplies at this time, citing numerous contributions from local businesses, residents, and out-of-town agencies.
A satellite to the ESS centre was established at the Skills Centre on Vermilion Avenue Monday, to distribute donated clothing to evacuees.
Despite the upturn in events, the Town of Princeton remains in a state of emergency.
“The danger level is definitely lowered but as long as there are evacuation alerts touching the borders of the community we will maintain the local state of emergency order.”
A decision made last week to put the town on a Stage 4 water restriction – in order to conserve water supply – was reversed Monday.