British Columbia

Wildfire-ravaged Pressy Lake residents ask whether officials did enough to save homes

B.C. Wildfire Service investigating after 33 homes destroyed in Pressy Lake, B.C.

Lito Howse - CBC News

September 22, 2017

A Pressy Lake home completely destroyed by the wildfire. (Submitted)

Residents of a fire-ravaged B.C. community want to know what was done to protect their homes from the Elephant Hill wildfire last month. 

The B.C. Wildfire Service says it is investigating after 33 homes were destroyed in Pressy Lake, about 60 kilometres southeast of 100 Mile House.

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Last weekend, residents were allowed to return home.  

"I pep talked myself and I thought that I was mentally prepared for it. And you start driving in, and it just gets worse," Pressy Lake property owner Jennifer Brown told Radio West host Sarah Penton.

While the two cabins still stand on the property her family has owned for 27 years — what she calls her "home away from home" — Brown says the scene in the community is somber.

"You'll see an owner standing in a pile of ash and they're looking around at what's left and they're kicking through it. And it's remnants of their home. It's probably one of the most painful things I've ever seen."

The Elephant Hill wildfire destroyed parts of Pressy Lake's surrounding landscape. (Submitted)

Brown says there was a wildfire evacuation order on July 29 due to the Elephant Lake fire, but the fire didn't reach Pressy Lake until August 11 or 12. 

Brown and dozens of community members want to know what officials did in those two weeks to protect their homes from the wildfire.

Brown says that when they returned, there was no fire retardant on any of the houses, no signs of sprinklers, and propane tanks were still next to what was left of some porches.

"We'd like to know what was done and if something was done. And if it wasn't, then why?" said Brown.

B.C. Wildfire Service Manager Aaron Pawlick said in a statement:

"At this time we continue to be investigating what happened in this situation, but given that this fire is still active, we want our staff focused on the situation at hand."

Brown says the community wants to know how this can be avoided in the future.

"Clearly this is the new norm and fire season is fire season."

With files from Radio West.

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