British Columbia

How to prepare for — and what not to do during — B.C. wildfire evacuations

As alerts and evacuation orders continue across the province, where more than 600 wildfires are burning, emergency organizations are urging British Columbians to prepare to leave if needed.

Plan ahead and prepare an emergency kit, Red Cross urges

12-year-old Ava is packing her things to leave the North Bonaparte, where she can see the forest fires from her home, but her father says he plans to stay behind. (Submitted by Ava Wettstein )

A B.C. father and his 12-year-old daughter have been plagued by forest fires two summers in a row and fear losing their home this time around.

On Wednesday, B.C. declared a state of emergency.

Jason Wettstein and daughter Ava live in the North Bonaparte plateau area north of Kamloops and can see the flames from the house they are building.

"I've made arrangements to get Ava out of here," Wettstein said, who evacuated his home during the fires last year and spent a month living in a hotel.

"I would like to stay a little longer — even if evacuated, I would probably stay here with the hose and try to save my place."

The area where Jason Wettstein and daughter Ava live is not currently under an evacuation order, but smoke and fire can be seen from their home. (Submitted by Ava Wettstein )

The new, nearly-built two-storey house doesn't have insurance from the fires, because construction is not completely finished yet.

"A lot of people would call me an idiot and probably say there is a lot of risk involved there," he said. "But I feel like I will know when I should leave."

Evacuation orders

But as alerts and evacuation orders continue across the province, where around 600 wildfires are burning, emergency organizations are urging British Columbians to prepare to leave if needed.

The Canadian Red Cross emphasized the safety risks of ignoring an evacuation order and urged all people living near active fires to regularly check information from their local authority and Emergency Management B.C.

As of Aug, 14, there are 29 evacuation orders affecting approximately 3,050 people (1,521 properties) and 48 evacuation alerts impacting approximately 18,720 people (9,359 properties).

"One of the most important things for people to understand is knowing the risks of where they live," said Elysia Dempsey, the director of emergency management for the Canadian Red Cross in B.C.

Understanding the risk, preparing in time

Preparing for an emergency means communicating a strategy with family, friends and neighbours and preparing an emergency kit with supplies — from pet food to personal documents — to last at least 72 hours but ideally up to a week, she said.

The challenge is convincing people to take the message seriously.

"You can hear that message but, then, to actually put it into practice takes some time," Dempsey said.

"It's about actually understanding the risk and being prepared yourself. If you have those two things in place then hopefully the impact isn't as devastating."

The Shovel Lake wildfire near Burns Lake, B.C., triggered an evacuation order on Monday. (B.C. Wildfire Service/Contributed )

Twelve-year-old Ava is getting ready to leave her home and father if needed, packing up clothes and other supplies.

"It's kind of scary," she said. [I'm scared] that we'll lose everything, and I can't bring my dog with me. He's going to have to stay here with my dad."

With files from Daybreak Kamloops and The Early Edition.

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