Chief says Telegraph Creek, B.C. wildfire area looks like scene from war film

Tahltan Chief says Telegraph Creek, B.C., looks like a 'scene from one of the World War II movies,' and says his people won't be able to return home until the end of October.

Fire has devastated about 56 structures, says Tahltan First Nation chief

A B.C. Wildfire Service crew member monitors a controlled burn in the Southern Interior. The chief of Tahltan First Nations described the damage to Telegraph Creek. B.C., akin to a scene from a WW II movie, and said his people won't be able to return home just yet. (Canadian Press)

The chief of Tahltan First Nation says the fire damage to Telegraph Creek in northern B.C. is devastating, and it could be weeks before his people can return home.

"If you can imagine a scene from one of the World War II movies where you see a lot of burned out forests and ash. It's pretty much the picture [of] the community," said Chief Rick McLean, after visiting the community Friday morning.

It's been about a month since the Alkali Lake wildfire ignited in northwest B.C., and eventually spread into Telegraph Creek, which forced about 300 residents to relocate. The small First Nation community is located where the Stikine River and Telegraph Creek meet.

McLean said about 56 structures in and around the community were lost, more than double what he counted earlier in August. Twenty-seven of these structures were homes.

"A lot of significant damage and a lot of work to do to get people back into the community," said McLean.

Chief Rick McLean said his people are scattered across Yukon and B.C., and he hopes they can return home by the end of October. (Phillipe Morin/CBC)

McLean said authorities are working to help get people back home by the end of October, but some road assessments on slope stability, water-system cleaning and safety checks must be completed first.

The chief said his people are scattered in Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Terrace and Prince George among other communities.

"We're scattered quite far and wide right now," said McLean.

McLean said a state of emergency is still in place for the community due to health and safety concerns. He said leaders met Friday afternoon to discuss the reopening of the road.

As of Saturday, the B.C. Wildfire Service classified Telegraph Creek as level 1, very low danger — down from Wednesday's high danger classification.

With files from Leonard Linklater