Monday July 17, 2017

'I want to go home': B.C. wildfire evacuees seek refuge in Kamloops

Lineup at the Kamloops evacuation centre: an estimated 36,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in B.C. as of Sunday afternoon.

Lineup at the Kamloops evacuation centre: an estimated 36,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in B.C. as of Sunday afternoon. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

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To wander Kamloops evaucation centre in B.C. is to witness the toll wildfires can take on their victims — even when their homes are still standing and they are safe.

Some try to be stoic but still shed tears. Others are quiet, not wanting to talk about what may lie ahead. 

"I want to go home. It ain't gonna happen, not for a while yet," said Patricia Butler, who lives in Williams Lake, B.C., about a three-hour drive north of Kamloops. 

laura

Laura Lynch speaks with Samantha and Vincent from Williams Lake.

In this special edition of The Current, host Laura Lynch went to Kamloops, B.C., and spoke to evacuees about the reality of leaving their homes, and the fear of what's next. 

She found Samantha, 17, and her brother Vincent, 18, on the steps outside the evacuation centre, looking a bit dazed by it all. 

"It looked like snow in the middle of July," Samantha said, recalling how the ashes filled the air before they left Williams Lake. 

"The sky was dark. It looked like hell was raining over us." - Samantha, evacuee from Williams Lake
Kamloops evacuation centre

Thousands of Williams Lake, B.C., residents and others were lined up Saturday night and Sunday morning in Kamloops seeking aid after fleeing wildfires. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

But while many Williams Lake residents have taken refuge in Kamloops, a few remain behind doing what they can to keep the town safe, including Mayor Walt Cobb. 

"It's my job to look after my community," Cobb tells Lynch.

"I want to be sure that I can be here to do absolutely everything I could to make sure everybody is safe, or got out safe if necessary." 

It's hard to see much in the town because of all the smoke, says Cobb.

"Right now it looks like a lot of blue smoke. You can't see right now ... It's eerie, it's weird — it's very strange."

While most people have left town, Cobb is spending his days meeting with firefighters and the RCMP and helping coordinate emergency services.

He intends to stay as long as he can.

"I will leave when the firemen have to leave."

This segment was produced by The Current's Josh Bloch, Idella Sturino, and Cathy Simon.  

Listen to the full segment at the top of this post.