'We might have to get the heck out again': B.C. wildfire evacuees prepare to return home

Evacuees granted the right to return home Saturday afternoon greeted the news with a mix of relief and the pragmatic acknowledgment that they could be forced to abruptly leaving again soon after returning home.

Evacuation orders downgraded for Princeton, 100 Mile House and surrounding areas

Evacuees pack up supplies in Kamloops, B.C. after an evacuation order for 100 Mile House and its surrounding area was downgraded on Saturday. (Raffy Boudjikanian / CBC)

Evacuees granted the right to return home Saturday afternoon greeted the news with a mix of relief and the pragmatic acknowledgment that they could be forced to abruptly leaving again soon after returning home. 

On Saturday afternoon, evacuation orders for 100 Mile House and surrounding areas were downgraded to an alert. Evacuation orders for an area near the town of Princeton were also downgraded earlier in the day.

Some have been away from their homes for as long as two weeks.

'Hope we've seen the last of this'

108 Mile Ranch residents Stephen Nelson and Pamela Helm initially fled the fires south to 70 Mile House. 

108 Mile Ranch residents Stephen Nelson and Pamela Helm are ready to return home after two weeks away. (Chad Pawson / CBC)

The husband and wife have spent the past week in Kamloops, at times sleeping in their vehicle in a parking lot. 

"A miniature motorhome," said Nelson. 

Nelson, 67, says they plan to return home as soon as they can.

"I feel good. Now, I want to go home and see what the freezers are like. From what I can tell, I think they're all bad."

The couple say their excitement at returning home is tempered by the reality that they could be forced to leave again on short notice. 

"We just hope we don't. We hope we've seen the last of this."  

Close community

Sean Judson and Amanda Stewart along with their children and dogs have also been biding their time in Kamloops after being ordered out of their 100 Mile House home.

Sean Judson and Amanda Stewart are ready to return to their 100 Mile House home with their family. (Chad Pawson / CBC)

"It's been very eventful," said Stewart. "All the generosity of people, it's been very overwhelming as well. I wouldn't have had it any other way I guess."

"Everyone wants to go back to their house," said Judson about people from his community forced out.

He works at the Mount Polley mine which lies in an area still under an evacuation order. 

Work remains suspended there, meaning Judson hasn't been earning wages.

What's not the same there anymore? Like what did the fire get, what didn't the fire get?- Sean Judson, 100 Mile House resident

He and his family plan to stay in Kamloops for a few more days before returning to 100 Mile House.

Judson says as far as they know, their home escaped damage, but acknowledge others may not have been so fortunate.

"We're all kind of a close community. You can't avoid what other people are feeling too." 

But when they do arrive home, they're planning to help rebuild their community. 

"So you hope for the best for everybody. Help out the ones that did get the worst of it. Help out where you can."

Meanwhile, both he and Stewart also say the fear remains that they may face another evacuation order this summer.

Judson says crews have done prescribed burns near their house as a preventative measure.

"So hopefully they hold and do their job and everything, basically it's all you can hope for."

with files from Chad Pawson