If you could see optimism, the way you can see smoke, residents of Princeton and area could watch it settle today over their community.
Saturday morning nearly all of the 303 families on evacuation order were allowed to return to their homes along Highway 5A and in Missezula Lake.
“This is the happiest day in more than two weeks,” said Mayor Frank Armitage, outside the Riverside Evacuation Centre where displaced homeowners were checking in so they could check out.
Highway 5A remains closed at Summers Creek Road, although residents of the area – which has been downgraded to evacuation alert – are allowed back to their properties with the proper documentation from the regional district.
Many of them have been living in local motels for more than two weeks, and some have relied on vouchers and donations to meet their basic needs.
An RCMP officer is currently stationed near the alert zone to ensure only residents are allowed through.
At about 10:30 am a line up of cars snaked along the highway, but the drivers and passengers were smiling and waving as they waited to be cleared for entrance.
According to a recent news release from the RDOS, Highway 5A is expected to be reopened at 10 am on Monday July 24, pending no change to wildfire conditions over the weekend.
Seventeen homes along the southern part of Summers Creek Road remain under evacuation order, the release stated, and 587 homes in total are under evacuation alert.
While residents of Missezula Lake can return to their properties, the main access to that 199-home community – Summers Creek Road – is closed and the town must be reached via logging roads.