British Columbia

Heartbroken Rock Creek evacuees set animals free to flee wildfire

Many pet and livestock owners were left with no choice but to free their animals to fend for themselves as the rapidly growing wildfire approached.

"Hopefully they headed away from the fire," says a distraught Debbie Smith

Livestock freed 1:06

Debbie Smith has worked at the Old Cowboy Ranch near Rock Creek, B.C, "for a ton of years" but yesterday instead of carrying out her usual duties of looking after the animals, she was setting them free to fend for themselves as the raging wildfire approached. 

"It's hard," said an emotional Smith choking back tears. "Hopefully they all headed away from the fire."

Smith says she had to release 15 horses, a number of pigs, goats, emus and cows. As well she freed "a couple hundred birds", including peacocks, ducks and chickens.

Rob Hardy and Melanie Chubbs also had to act fast as the fire engulfed their Rock Creek house. 

"The place was surrounded," said Hardy outside the Kelowna evacuation centre. "All three sides were burning up."

Hardy said he set two horses free when the RCMP told him he had to leave. 

"I just literally opened the gate and chased them down the Trans Canada trail towards our swimming hole. Last I saw them they were heading across the river."

Hardy and Chubbs then got in their truck and drove away. 

"Not knowing if we have a home is the hardest part." sobbed Chubbs.

Volunteer Members of CDART, the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team were called in to the Rock Creek area Friday afternoon. 

CDART volunteer Anna-Maria Robinson says members are usually allowed to cross fire lines to look for endangered livestock, as long as it's deemed safe. 

"They will be looking to round up any livestock animals and kill any that are badly injured," says Robinson. "They are experienced horse and cattle people."

Officials have confirmed some livestock have perished in the fire.

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