December 19, 2012 - 1:13 PM
Words couldn't describe the joy Splatsin First Nation Chief Wayne Christian felt for the re-opening of the Super Save Gas Station in Enderby this morning.
Chief Christian simply raised his arms in a hurrah, gesturing at the employees who were once again pumping gas.
The gas station had been shut down for a month following a fire on Nov. 19. which started in the electrical room of the building. While the fire didn't spread to the gas pumps, it wreaked havoc on the building which hosted the Quilakwa Art Gallery. The $500,000 damage dealt a heavy blow to the community.
Gloria Morgan, who is President of Yucwmenlukwu ("caretakers of the land" in the Splatsin language) and sits on the gas station board of directors, says the gas station serves as a meeting place for members of the community.
"When the store burned, it devastated the community," Morgan says. "For a month, that special meeting place was gone."
Don Perrault, an employee at the gas station for three and a half years, says the fire couldn't have come at a worse time; just before Christmas.
"Suddenly, you have no income," Perrault says, adding it can take time to get employment insurance.
When the fire struck, 15 employees were out of work without a hair's notice.
"It's important that we get these people back to work," Chief Christian says. But unfortunately, not all the employees will return to work until the gas station is fully up and running, which Christian expects to happen in the spring.
A fundraiser sponsored by the Splatsin First Nation and the gas station board last weekend demonstrated profound support for the employees, and families, who were affected by the fire. Alongside monetary donations, food and gifts were given to ensure the families were able to celebrate the holidays.
Morgan says today's re-opening was up in the air due to issues with the new point of sale system, septic lines and other matters. When the opening was made official, Morgan says it was something of a Christmas miracle.
For now, a trailer set up to the left of the fire ravaged store serves as a base for the gas station's operations. But the vision is to restore, or rebuild, the original building.
Grahame Go, internal operations manager, looks at the bright side of the incident.
"It's an opportunity to expand the store," he says.
Perrault says the new building will be "bigger and better."
There will be a meeting tomorrow to discuss plans for the new store, Morgan says.
"Then, at a later point, there will be an opportunity for the community to join in the discussion," she says, adding the process will be open and collaborative.
As Chief Christian watched the gas station return to life, he recalled the day 30 years ago when the business first opened.
"It was one of the first band-owned gas stations in B.C.," he says with pride.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2012