As It Happens

Afternoon skies look 'like midnight' in B.C. as wildfires rage, says evacuee

Thousands of people are being evacuated from their homes as wildfires continue to blaze across British Columbia.

Trevor Chapman describes an 'apocalyptic' scene as he evacuated his trailer park in Fraser Lake, B.C.

A screenshot from a video Trevor Chapman took at 3:15 pm on Tuesday at his Fraser Lake, B.C. trailer park before he evacuated. (Trevor Chapman/Facebook)
Listen5:18

Read Story Transcript

Trevor Chapman was forced to abandon his trailer park in Fraser Lake, B.C., as the wildfires around his home grew.

On Wednesday, the British Columbia government declared a state of emergency. Over 560 fires are burning across the province and thousands of people are under evacuation orders.

Chapman spoke with As It Happens guest host Matt Galloway.

Here is part of their conversation.

At what point, Trevor, did you decide this is it, I got to get out of here?

My son had called me and basically told me to get myself a truck and get out.

What did it look like at that time?

Once it flared up, it was really bad. And you know, living in a trailer park, where you can't get insurance on your belongings or anything like that, you basically have no choice but to pack and leave — and hopefully it's still standing when you return. 

There's no immediate relief in the weather forecast for crews battling hundreds of wildfires in British Columbia. (Parks Canada/Canadian Press)

What does really bad look like?

Well, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon it's suppose to be sunny and 27 degrees. Well, it looked like midnight. The awful pink and red glow in the sky was enough to give your head a shake and go, "Yeah okay, it's time to go."

Nobody was telling us anything on any websites. We basically took it upon ourselves, the people of Fraser Lake, to make our own decisions and start evacuating and moving out. You know what I mean? [It's] just the frustrating part about the whole situation. No help, no nothing.

It sounds like you're out on your own. I have to say, your voice sounds very hoarse. Is that because of the smoke that's been around?

Yeah. Ashes and smoke and everything else. I'm surprised I haven't got a puffer yet.

Describe what happens as you leave. I mean, you get out on the road, what is it like?

Very hard. I'm trying to come up with that word again, "apocalyptic." Driving, you can't see a foot and a half, two feet in front of you. People are racing by you. You're going, "You ain't going to get there any faster than we are." People just [have] no respect for anybody else on the road. But put your pedal to the m​etal and go.

Trevor Chapman evacuated his trailer park in Fraser Lake, B.C. but hopes to return later this week to check on his home and the belongings he left behind. (Submitted by Trevor Chapman)

You mentioned the ash, was there a lot of ash falling at the time? 

Oh yeah. It was like whiteout conditions, like when you're driving through a snow storm, which we do that quite frequently up here too. But yeah, that's exactly what it was like. Your wipers couldn't keep up with it kind of thing.

You could taste it. You could smell it. You could feel it. You could smell it all over you. Like sitting in front of a campfire for a few hours. 

Have you ever seen anything like this before?

Not in our area, no. We've had fires but nothing like this in any way, shape or form. I've never seen it like this.

Written by Imogen Birchard and John McGill. Produced by Imogen Birchard. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.