Rancher fears for 30 horses left behind near Telegraph Creek as fire rages on

After the Alkali Lake and South Stikine River fires merged into one giant blaze, residents worry about what they left behind.

Officials tell him it's too dangerous to risk a rescue attempt

The Alkali Lake and South Stikine River fires have merged, now engulfing almost 300 square kilometres of northwestern B.C. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

Vernon Marion had two hours to prepare to flee when he got the evacuation order to leave his home in Telegraph Creek, B.C., earlier this week as the Alkali Lake wildfire roared closer.

He ran outside, put some of his belongings in a field he thought would be safe from the fire, and tried to protect them with a tarp and water jugs.

"You don't think properly when something like that's happening," he said.

"If you had to do it all over again you'd probably do it differently."

Vernon Marion of Telegraph Creek, B.C., is concerned about the 30 horses he had to leave behind when he was evacuated from his home as a wildfire approached. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Neighbours and outfitters have offered to take horse trailers into the area to rescue the animals, but officials told Marion it's too dangerous.

So now he has to wait and find out what is to become of his ranch and his horses.

"We'll go down there if we get a break [Friday] and round them up."

'We're resilient'

Yukon Minister of Tourism and member of the Tahltan First Nation Jeanie Dendys was in Telegraph Creek during the evacuation where she and her sister helped people get out of the community. 

"Our chief is working non-stop which is what we did during those initial days," she said.

"There's so much work to be done, but people are safe and that was what our main focus was."

Dendys said the Tahltan people are heartbroken over the devastation the wildfire has caused in their region, but she believes the strength of the community will help them overcome the loss. 

"We're resilient," she said. "The unity that we have among our people will bring us through this."

Fires merged

Early Thursday, the South Stikine River and Alkali Lake fires merged created a fire covering almost 300 square kilometres.  

At a meeting in Dease Lake on Wednesday night, B.C. Wildfire Service incident commander Hugh Murdoch said ground crews and air support are working to protect culturally significant sites and buildings in the area.

From left, Tony Falcao of the B.C. Wildfire Service, Chief Rick McLean of the Tahltan Nation and Hugh Murdoch of the B.C. Wildfire Service update the public on the fire situation on August 8, 2018. (Phillipe Morin/CBC)

"The type of efforts that we've been putting forward will continue," Murdoch said. 

A cold front is expected to pass through the area in coming days, and crews are preparing for a potential increase in wind and shift in its direction. 

With files from Philippe Morin


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