British Columbia

'Get out there, get 'er done and, of course, be safe': Tiny Riske Creek, B.C., fights the fire

In the tiny B.C. community of Riske Creek, logging and ranching are a way of life, but in recent days many of the 90 or so residents have found themselves on the front line of one of the largest fires in the province.

A couple of dozen people resist evacuation order to stay behind and protect their community

Volunteer firefighter films inferno near Riske Creek, B.C.

5 years ago
Duration 0:43
Ron Svisdahl took this footage of one of the province's largest ongoing wildfires

In the tiny central B.C. community of Riske Creek, logging and ranching are a way of life, but in recent days, many of the 90 or so residents have found themselves on the front line of one of the largest fires in the province.

"It's just a nightmare," said Evan Fuller, a logger who is used to working with heavy equipment but has spent the past week and half learning the ropes of fighting wildfires.

"Long nights and tiresome days."

Even though Riske Creek is under an evacuation order, many residents have stayed behind, and Fuller says those who didn't "got their butts back here to help stop the fire." 

A crew of resident firefighters, including Evan Fuller, left, takes a break after saving a home from the fire near Riske Creek. (Raylene Poffenroth)

Equipped with water bladders, pumps and hoses, the residents have been defending houses and bolstering fireguards.

The pictures and video they have taken are some of the most powerful images of the B.C. fires, and show the scale and severity of what all the crews are dealing with.

The Hanceville-Riske Creek fire has been threatening the small ranching community for days and has burned a number of structures. (Evan Fuller)

"It's the sound of that sucker as it comes over the hill," said Fuller describing the roar of the fire.

"Big fir trees are lighting up like candlesticks."

Hot spots flare up and force crews to continue their battle. (Ron Svisdahl)

The fire, known as the Hanceville-Riske Creek fire, is burning about 60 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.


Covering 98,000 hectares, it began on July 8 as two fires that merged. Residents in Riske Creek were ordered to evacuate on July 9, but entire families stayed.

Fuller says while many of the men started setting up hoses and building fire lines, everyone else helped by preparing meals. His wife and two children left when the smoke grew heavy. 

"We didn't want to separate, but they are safe and out of harm's way," said Fuller.

Smoke covers the horizon on Highway 20, a vital link for many small, remote communities in B.C.'s Chilcotin region. (Ron Svisdahl)

Over the weekend, the wind whipped up the fire, which rapidly approached the community.

"It was jumping 250 metres at a time," he said. 

"It was coming right for us."

A house in the rural area outside of Riske Creek burned down, but Fuller says they managed to save many others by spraying them and trying to direct the fire around the buildings.

Ron Svisdahl is a a forestry contractor with no with firefighting experience but is helping Riske Creek residents battle the flames. (Evan Fuller)

Ron Svisdahl, a forestry contractor, started his volunteer shift at 7 a.m. Sunday running a hose and working with a water truck.

By 10 p.m., with the fire raging, his team had to pull out. 

"As we're filling up the water truck, the embers were actually coming over us," said Svisdahl.

"It was too hot, and the fire was almost a quarter of a mile away from us."

Svisdahl travelled back and forth from Kamloops to the Chilcotin region to help in Riske Creek. (Chris Corday/CBC)

The following day, the fire tore through Riske Creek, burning a stretch of forest.

Fuller says no homes in the community were lost, but the fire left a lot of scorched earth.

Fuller and Svisdahl praised the provincial wildfire fighting crews that have been deployed to the area. The men do whatever they can to support the crews.

Fire races through the trees near the tiny ranching community. (Raylene Poffenroth)

"It takes a lot of courage to be out there," says Svisdahl, who spoke to CBC News while picking up supplies in Kamloops.

He loaded the back of his truck with gear and got ready to head north again to the fire line.

"It's just a matter of get out there, get 'er done," he said.

"And, of course, be safe."