'They could see the fire coming': Lake Country residents leave in sudden door-to-door evac
Published Sunday, July 16, 2017 2:11PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 16, 2017 4:07PM EDT
Police and firefighters went door-to-door telling people to leave their homes immediately on Saturday in Lake Country, B.C., as “extremely aggressive” wildfires swept into the area within a matter of minutes.
Lake Country Fire Chief Steve Windsor says the fire moved into the area within 30 minutes or so, jumping highways, burning right up to the tops of trees and surging into the scenic community, where it burned its way up a hillside to the homes perched high upon it.
Windsor says about 300 homes were evacuated very quickly, leaving residents with little time to grab their things or prepare their homes for the coming flames. There had been no previous warning to prepare for such an evacuation, but the wind made it an urgent necessity, he said.
“It spread extremely fast,” Windsor told CTV News Channel on Sunday. “They could see the fire coming.”
He added that once the wind started blowing fire up the hill in Lake Country, officials knew “right away that there was going to be loss.”
Fire crews say they have the flames 80 per cent contained, but they’ve also lost many structures to the wildfire.
“There was numerous homes that have been lost,” Windsor said.
The flames have been largely isolated to one neighbourhood and have not significantly impacted the rest of Lake Country, a community of approximately 15,000 residents. Windsor says barriers have been set up and firefighters are selectively protecting the homes they think have the best chance of surviving the flames.
Wildfires have devastated large sections of the province’s central interior, forcing an estimated 37,000 people from their homes.
Officials say about 160 fires are burning across the province, with most of them out of control. Three thousand firefighters and 203 aircraft have been deployed to fight the flames, according to John Runstad, minister of B.C.’s forestry, lands and natural resource operations.
Runstad says firefighting efforts have already blown through an origina $63-million budget, with the number now closer to $80 million and climbing. “We don’t really have a good grip on these fires in terms of trying to contain them,” Runstad told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
He adds that it’s still early in the fire season, and there’s no significant rainfall in the forecast.
“It doesn’t call for any real break in the weather in the near future,’ he said.