The wildfire season has barely started.
We’ve had unprecedented record-breaking heat.
A provincial campfire ban is in place until October.
City parks are closed.
The town of Lytton, B.C. Has been 90% lost to fire.
The Kamloops Fire Chief says that “We are at risk here and are asking everyone in Kamloops to take extreme care. We haven’t seen conditions like this in Kamloops ever before. I want citizens to know that the fire conditions are beyond dangerous.”
We remember the smoky-filled slides and high anxiety of 2017 and 2018, the worst wildfire seasons in our province’s history.
So, Gerry and I take a few hours and put an evacuation plan into place. We gather important papers and set aside an area in our basement for “go bins” that we can grab at a moments notice. As we walk through the house, I’m surprised at how few things we deem as irreplaceable. The realization speaks loudly. We make a list of last minute things to grab like medications, dog leashes, and other paraphernalia and tape it to one of the bins.
Later that night, we’re in bed. I’ve already put my book down but Gerry’s still reading when the doorbell rings. It wakes me up and, as Gerry returns to the bedroom, I mumble “who was that?”
”It was Mike,” he says tersely. “There’s a fire.”
I’m awake and out of bed in an instant and we go to the bedroom window as see a fire raging below us.
We’re thinking about leaving when there’s pounding on the door. The doorbell repeatedly rings. It’s the RCMP. They’re going door to door telling everyone to get out.
We’re relatively calm as we execute our hours-old evacuation plan, gathering last-minute things, and loading the cars. I post a request for prayer, field text messages and phone calls from family, and make a quick phone call: “There’s a fire. We’re being evacuated. Can we come?”
We join the long line of cars heading for the one road out of our community. The going is slow but steady. Later, we’ll hear reports of it taking over an hour for some people to get out. It’s an issue that will need to be addressed but for now we just keep going. It’s surreal.
It’s storming. Heavy rain (a very good thing), booming thunder, and, worst of all, lightening. That’s what started this fire and others in the city.
Some time later, once we’re safely at a friend’s home, still a bit shell-shocked and riding an adrenaline high, the news reports that the evacuation order has been rescinded. We’re relieved and in slight disbelief, but a double check of the city website confirms it, so we reload the cars and head home.
We don’t unload, but grab only immediate necessities and head, tired and grateful, back into the house. We stand on our deck in the wind and the rain watching the fire still burn, surprised they rescinded the order but trusting they know what they’re doing. Eventually, Gerry opens the blinds in the bedroom and we crawl into bed. He can see the fire from his side.
Time takes on a strange property in times like this and I’m not sure how long it is before there’s pounding at the door and the incessant ringing of the doorbell again. It’s the RCMP again. The evacuation order is back on. We’re confused, because the flames have died down from our vantage point but, again, we trust those who know what they’re doing, reload the car, and head out.
The rest of the night passes in a blur. It’s about 2 am when we finally fall into bed, exhausted.
Firefighters battle the fire for the whole of the following day aided by helicopters and water bombers. The skies remain smoky. We are tired, beyond grateful, and on edge knowing we’re heading into what promises to be a very, very scary season.