British Columbia

'Horror and loss': Family fears 70-year-old fishing resort lost to B.C. wildfires

Loon Lake, B.C., has seen 'heavy loss' from the Ashcroft Reserve fire, and one family fears it has claimed their home and a fishing resort that's welcomed guests since 1946.

As the Ashcroft Reserve fire burns at Loon Lake, one family fears its claimed their home and business

Ken Ladoski and his daugther, Kelli, are worried the family business of 70 years may have been destroyed in the wildfire. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Growing up in Loon Lake, B.C., Kelli Ladoski describes what felt like a certain future: one day, running the family fishing resort her great-grandfather started more than 70 years ago.

Today, she and her father, Ken, don't know if a single cabin of HiHium Lake Fishing Resort has been spared by the Ashcroft Reserve wildfire that forced the evacuation of the area Friday night.

"It's all he's ever known. It's all I've ever known," said Kelli Ladoski.

"That's my future. That's what I've been looking forward to and basically groomed into my entire life."

The Ladoskis, who live full time on an acreage in the Loon Lake community northwest of Cache Creek, believe they likely lost their family home in the fire and are waiting on information about the family business.

"We're people of action. We're hard working people," said Kelli. "It's horrific having to sit here and think maybe ... everything our family has worked for may be gone."

HiHium Lake Fishing Resort, in the mountains northeast of Cache Creek, has been welcoming guests since 1946, but its fate is uncertain as wildfires burn in the area. (Mark Forsythe)

Roar of flames over the ridge

When the Loon Lake evacuation order was issued Friday evening, the 376 homes in the area had already been on alert for five days, but it still felt sudden, said the Ladoskis. (The resort, including 34 guests, had been evacuated almost a week earlier).

Ken learned about the order to leave around 6:45 p.m. PT on his way down from HiHium, which has no telephones or electricity.

"I got in the backyard and filled up my vehicle with gas, and I could hear the roar of the flames coming over the ridge line," said Ken Ladoski.

"The roar is just unbelievable."

Fires have burned more of B.C. this year than any year since 1961. (Shawn Cahill)

He filled two large tubs with belongings while an officer ordered him to leave.

"As I was putting the last items that I could dash around to grab, the RCMP woman was pounding on the door ... screaming and hollering, 'get out now!'"

He drove away with feelings of "horror and loss," knowing the family property lay in the main path of a wall of fire.

They fear the resort may also be lost, but their customers, many of whom return year after year, are hoping that's not the case.

"[We] spent many happy hours fishing at HiHium, made good friends and happy memories. So sad to think it may all be gone," wrote Marie Slessor on Facebook.

Firefighting efforts continue

It's unknown how many homes have been lost near Loon Lake, but on Monday, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) said a rapid damage assesment team would be deployed to the area.

"Residents who have sustained damage to their property can expect to receive a call from the TNRD over the next few days as the information comes in from the team," said the regional district in a statement.

The regional district also said a meeting would likely be arranged for all Loon Lake residents in the next few days. 

In total, 240 firefighters are still working on the Ashcroft Reserve Fire, which keeps growing and burning out of control and on Monday morning was estimated at 52,600 hectares.

Firefighters from Burnaby, Duncan and Lake Cowichan, led by Burnaby deputy chief Dave Samson, are part of the efforts to protect homes in the area.

They're spraying structures down using fire hoses drawing from creeks and other sources and spraying fire-retardant foam as well.

Samson spent Sunday night working in the area.

"The Loon Lake area experienced some heavy loss," he said, in terms of downed trees, power lines, and homes completely burned.

With files from Briar Stewart