Some B.C. wildfire evacuees return to unrecognizable homes

Hillsides and houses covered in red fire retardant made the return home bittersweet for some Cache Creek evacuees.

'Red fire retardant everywhere, all over everything.'

The return home for some B.C. wildfire evacuees was bittersweet after discovering a swath of their homes were saved but were nearly unrecognizable.

Dozens of Cache Creek residents close to the perimeter of the town found their yards, cars and much of their homes covered in firefighting chemicals.

Paradise dashed

"Red fire retardant everywhere, all over everything," said resident Nicky Horth.

The sea of red wasn't what she expected when she finally drove up to her home at the Sage and Sands Trailer Park on Wednesday afternoon.

"Tears," she recalled.  

"We have a home but it's going to take a lot to clean it. Other people don't have a home so you feel bad for them as well you know."

Horth and her husband just bought their mobile home in March.

They had spent countless hours renovating, painting and gardening, she said, trying to turn their backyard into their small piece of paradise.

Now, much of the home more closely resembles a crime scene.

She says she tried to wash off some the retardant using soap and water, as instructed by Interior Health, but it clung to the surface.

Neighbouring properties

Horth wasn't the only one that came home to splatters of red, her neighbours to the left and right were affected as well.

"It's been rough, it's been rough for everyone," she said. "We were lucky we didn't lose anything but it's still stressful."

Air tankers had dropped thousands of litres of retardant to slow the spread of a fire that swallowed a hill right behind their yards.

A spokesperson for the B.C. Wildfire Service says large winds may have caused the red chemicals to drift on to homes.

An emotional return

Reagh Cooper was feeling fortunate his home in the same trailer park looked the same way he left it.

The nearby hill though, he commented, was a different shade. 

After he was evacuated, he headed to Kamloops where he was touched by the city's generosity.

"My wife was in a grocery store with a cart full of groceries," he recalled. "There was a lady ahead of her with a gallon of milk and she said, 'Those are my groceries. I'm paying for it."

"I'd never seen her in my life."

After he checked on his own home, he helped a friend move into a new trailer home nearby.

His friend purchased what he could from an estate sale after the Ashcroft reserve fire burned everything he owned to the ground.

Seeing his friend's strength made him even more grateful, he said.