Hope dwindles in search for B.C. fire chief who may have been swept into creek
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, May 6, 2017 2:40PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 6, 2017 9:48PM EDT
CACHE CREEK, B.C. -- Hope is fading in the search for a missing British Columbia fire chief feared to have been swept away in swollen creek, the community's mayor said.
Clayton Cassidy of Cache Creek in B.C.'s Interior disappeared early Friday morning, RCMP said.
He was last known to be checking creek flow levels at a campground east of the village as snowmelt and rain was causing floods in the region.
Mayor John Ranta said Saturday there is still no sign of Cassidy "but we remain cautiously optimistic that he will be found alive, although hope is fading for that."
Search and rescue crews from Kamloops, Vernon, Pemberton and Ashcroft have been involved in the effort to locate the 59-year-old fire chief.
Waters were still moving very fast Saturday and where water has receded, branches, mud and debris have been left behind.
Heavy machines have been brought in to remove piles of broken wood from the front of the fire hall.
"It's just a tragedy of epic proportions to have somebody like Clayton Cassidy missing," Ranta said.
Cassidy was given a Medal of Good Citizenship by the B.C. government last year for his efforts helping Cache Creek residents during a devastating flood in May 2015.
Premier Christy Clark halted her election campaign to visit the community Saturday morning, meeting with municipal officials and touring the flood zone.
Clark said the disappearance of the fire chief is like having the spark plug missing from the community.
"We will be here to support this community and all of the communities that have been affected ... We have their backs. We will be there for them," she said.
New Democrat Leader John Horgan also took time from his campaign in Vernon to offer his support and sympathies to Cache Creek residents.
"I have every hope and wish as with all British Columbians that Clayton Cassidy will be found safe, but this is a difficult time for his friends and his family," said Horgan. "Our thoughts are with his family and friends."
Green Leader Andrew Weaver also issued a statement Friday saying he hoped Cassidy is found safe and reminding other residents in the flood regions to take precautions.
"To all residents in the affected areas, please stay safe and follow evacuation orders," Weaver said. "Your safety is paramount."
Clark said crews have transported 30,000 sandbags across the province to support regions under flood advisories and can move tens of thousands more on 12 hours notice.
"Sadly, we have gotten really good at dealing with crises, forest fires, floods in British Columbia," Clark said. "Our emergency management people are amongst the best in the world. We are going to spare no expense and we are going to move as nimbly and quickly as we can to support people."
With files from Dirk Meissner in Vernon