British Columbia

'Seeing is believing': B.C. fire-zone photos show what's left at Loon Lake

Photos of the Loon Lake, B.C., area, taken covertly, show what the wildfire destroyed but also what it spared.

Residents find closure and some relief as evidence emerges of how their properties have fared

Images of properties taken after a wildfire descended on the community of Loon Lake have started to emerge online. (Submitted)

For 10 days, Linda Lennox has been waiting by a phone and her computer, desperate for news about the resort she and her husband Kevin own on Loon Lake, a picturesque waterfront community northwest of Kamloops, B.C., that was in the direct path of the wildfire.  

The built-up stress and anxiety eased Tuesday night when she opened her Facebook account and noticed that she was tagged in a post.

When she clicked on it, she saw a blurry photo taken from a truck that showed the Marigold Resort still standing.

"I was gobsmacked, just in disbelief," said Lennox, who is staying in Mission, B.C., with relatives.

Through tears, she recalled how she and Kevin dreamed of owning a resort. They purchased Marigold five years ago and invested their life savings in the property.

When the Loon Lake area was put on evacuation alert on July 9, Lennox left the resort but her husband, a volunteer firefighter, stayed behind as long as he could to try to fend off the advancing flames.

He and others were forced to abandon the area on July 14, as the fire started to sweep through the community.
This image was captured from the Marigold Resort before residents had to flee their homes last Friday. (Shawn Cahill)

There were a few pictures taken of the inferno, but with little other information, there has been rampant rumours and speculation.  

"'It is very difficult to not know, you are in the middle of this firestorm and no one can get an answer," said Lennox.

Even worse, after the fire she saw what turned out to be an inaccurate post online that said the Marigold was gone.

"It was gut-kicking," she said.
Loon Lake is home to about 330 structures, including a number of fishing resorts and about 170 year-round residents. (Facebook)

Lack of information

In first few days, there was little official information while crews worked to contain the fire.  

Officials had said that in addition to the fire hall, some of the 376 properties around the lake had been destroyed. Distraught residents wanted to know which ones.

"I am sure everyone's stomachs are as sick as ours," said Doug Allen, whose grandparents own a home and a cabin on the lake.
Doug Allen's family owns a large property with a full-time residence and cabin on Loon Lake. He's been desperate for information about the fire. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

After carefully studying a few of the cellphone photos posted online, Allen believes the cabin burned down, but the home is still standing.

Still he wanted confirmation, and he wanted to help the other residents who still had no idea about the fate of their properties.

"It has been a horrible couple of days. Just the urge to come up here was intense. It's been consuming me," said Allen.

It was that gnawing feeling that motivated him to embark on a covert photo mission, travelling the bumpy back roads to circumvent police roadblocks, trying to get as close to the lake as possible.
An image posted online shows what appears to be a incinerated property in Loon Lake. Doug Allen says his family's cabin appears to also have been destroyed in the background. (Submitted)

When he got into the community, Allen took dozens of photos that he posted online Tuesday evening.

His images show homes and buildings still standing, including the Marigold Resort.

It was his image that brought Linda Lennox so much relief.

"Seeing is believing," Allen said, adding that he was happy to make the journey because it gave residents the news they have been waiting for days for.
Doug Allen posted pictures of many properties that were undamaged on Facebook, so residents could finally see things for themselves. (Doug Allen)

Official confirmation on the way

Officials with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District say a preliminary assessment of the damage at Loon Lake was completed Tuesday night.

There is not yet a tally of the number of properties destroyed, but the district will contact residents over the next few days, to let them know the status of their property.

As hot spots are still burning in the area and crews are repairing damaged hydro lines, there is no date yet when people can go back home.
A home appears to have been spared by the fire in Loon Lake, while other structures on the property sustained some damage. On Facebook, the owner posted that she was relieved after seeing this image online. (Submitted)

About the Author

Briar Stewart is a senior reporter with CBC News. For more than a decade, she has been covering stories for television, radio and online. She is based in Vancouver and can be reached at or on Twitter @briarstewart