Burns Lake residents are coming together to help out an evacuee family that’s been away from their home for almost two months.
The family arrived in Burns Lake approximately two weeks ago after having already lived in a motorhome for 40 days near Chilanko Forks, B.C.
“We thought we were going to be gone for four or five days,” said Shana, who asked Lakes District News not to publish her last name to ensure the safety of their home and belongings.
Shana’s husband, Fred, and her mother-in-law, Evelyn, left their home in the Chilcotin region, approximately 100 km west of Williams Lake, with their three dogs on July 9, 2017. Their home is near the Plateau wildfire, which is now considered one of the largest wildfires ever seen in B.C. As of Aug. 29, this fire had consumed 493,000 hectares.
“On July 6 we started seeing fires in the distance,” she described. “We could see flames from our bedroom, so we decided to get out.”
The family decided to leave a day before an evacuation order was officially issued. Shana said they had to drive through flames in order to get out of their community.
“I was terrified,” she said.
The family found a safe spot to park their motorhome in a native reserve near Chilanko Forks, approximately 172 km west of Williams Lake. But they soon realized that they were actually stuck since the highways were closed.
“We only had $80 in cash and all the debit machines weren’t working,” said Shana. “We had no phone or internet to let our family know where we were.”
With highways closed, food and supplies were being delivered to the reserve by helicopter.
But after 40 days, even that area was no longer safe. An evacuation order was issued and the family was once again forced to leave.
Tired of breathing in smoke, the family drove north and then west, until they could no longer see smoke. That’s when they found Burns Lake.
Since they knew nobody in Burns Lake, the family parked their motorhome at the municipal campground and then used social media to ask for help.
That’s when a local made a generous offer to the family – his empty farm house on the Southside, where the family could stay for free for as long as they needed. However, the house had no furniture.
That’s when The Postmen, a local disaster relief group, came in. By collecting community donations, they were able to provide the family with new furniture, clothing, food and cash.
“People have been amazing here,” said Shana.
“We’re better now because we’re not around smoke, we’re not watching fires,” she continued. “Siting in the motorhome for days watching things burn, breathing in smoke, we had meltdowns, crying ourselves to sleep; but since we got here, everybody has been so helpful and we felt great.”
Although authorities say the family will likely be able to move back home in October, Shana said the family will have to wait until spring to return because their home is not entirely built.
“We’re building a house and if we go back in October we cannot get to a lockup before it gets too cold, so we have to stay somewhere until spring,” she explained.
Shana said she recently received information that their home has not been damaged by the fire.
To support the family, contact Angelika Posselt with The Postmen at 250-692-6683. Donations can be dropped off Monday to Saturday at P&B Feeds ’n Needs, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.