British Columbia

'It's hard to think this could happen to you': voices from B.C.'s wildfire zone

For thousands of people forced out of their homes by wildfires in central B.C., this weekend will be remembered as one of disbelief, panic and loss.

Some lost their homes; others don't know if they'll have anything left when they return

Angie Thorne's home was destroyed in a wildfire that burned through the Ashcroft Reserve in B.C. (CBC News)

For thousands of people forced out of their homes by wildfires in central B.C., this weekend will be remembered as one of disbelief, panic and loss.

Evacuees and those still within the fire zone spoke with CBC News on Saturday, explaining what it's like to watch the landscape — and sometimes, your community — go up in flames.

Here is the story of B.C.'s state of emergency, told by those who witnessed it first hand.

The wildfire in Ashcroft created an orange glow over the area on Friday. (Instagram/@blondiesoph)

The fires hit

Angie Thorne lost her home on the Ashcroft Reserve, one of about a dozen that was destroyed by the aggressively spreading flames:

"I took pictures of my house burning and a few hours later my dad's house was burning … Some of my cousins, their house was burned. My son's house that he was living in, that burned as well …

"It's really hard to think that this could happen to you, but within minutes it was done."

Gracie Nelson was working in Williams Lake when residents in her hometown of Lac La Hache received evacuation orders.

"When I got there ... I started crying because I was scared. And then another one started and another one and we ended up getting surrounded."

The Gustafsen wildfire near 100 Mile House is believed to have been sparked by human activity on July 6, 2017. (@ElishaIsabelle/Twitter)

Packing up

Jan Silverton heard from neighbours that an evacuation order was coming before the RCMP knocked on her door in the 105 Mile House area:

"It became a total panic. Unfortunately a lot of people do panic in this situation and start grabbing silly things instead of the things they need.

"We just calmly went through the house and ...packed up everything of importance, our important papers and pictures we can't replace …

"It's very difficult [to stay calm]. You just have to keep taking a deep breath and getting your head together because it's inevitable that your house could be gone. That could be replaced but lives can't, animals can't."

At least 7,000 people across B.C. have been ordered to leave their homes. (Keith Bevan)

Leaving town

James Jamieson fled his home in 108 Mile Ranch on Friday with his wife and two sons:

"It was actually quite horrifying to look at the clouds and just see the plumes, the smoke, wondering will you have something to go back to? The main thing is, as long as I knew my family was with me and they were safe, that was my number one concern.

"Once I got to Cache Creek it was a nightmare, because their fire exploded at the same time.

I went into a wall of smoke -- it looked like nighttime.

"Then when we got into Kamloops we could see at the hotel ... people were pouring in one after another, with a displaced look of, what do I do now? Where do I go?

"It was like a catastrophic war zone."

A wildfire burns on a mountain behind an RV park office in Cache Creek in the early morning hours on Saturday. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Left behind

Cindy Skakun was one of the few people left behind in Cache Creek after most of her neighbours were evacuated:

"It is so hot in town, and the smoke is so thick. It's crazy …

"I'm diabetic and I don't think my insulin is working that well in the heat, so I need to have gas to get in the car if it gets too hot, with my dogs. It was 110 F on my deck yesterday. I have no power and no water."