The fast-moving grass fire in Kamloops ended in good news, but is serving as a stark reminder for much of B.C. in how quick a spark could escalate into irreversible devastation.
For Bobbi-Jo Stephenson, the evening started like any other Thursday: Dropping her daughter at soccer practice while her son stayed home, babysitting a family friend’s two children.
“I happened to get a text from my daughter’s friend saying, ‘There is a fire behind your home, and you might get evacuated,’” she told Black Press Media while looking out onto the burnt hillside from her back porch.
Stephenson was able to get in touch with her son, who was panicking from all the smoke.
“As I was talking with him on the phone telling him to go outside, the firefighter happened to be knocking on the door to tell him to get out,” she said. Her son was able to find their neighbour and stay with them until Stephenson got home.
Stephenson’s home was among the 12 that were the first in B.C. to be told to leave their homes this wildfire season.
As quickly as it sparked – lightning is believed to be the culprit – the fire became a significant one for the BC Wildfire Service, reaching 60 hectares at its peak and burning 10 feet away from Stephenson’s backyard.
“It was just like ‘bang,’ it just happened,” Stephenson said. “Today, I realize we could have lost everything. We only had the shirts on our back.”
Officials gained control of the flames later that night.
Stephenson represents the majority of British Columbians, having never been forced out of her home by a wildfire.
It’s a situation both scientists and government officials say residents should be aware of as an increasing possibility.
Last year, 65,000 people were displaced by roaring wildfires in the B.C. Interior. Some of them had no more than a few minutes to pack up necessities and drive to the nearest evacuation centre.
“My neighbour who grabbed my kids, she had been in firefighting and had a bag packed,” Stephenson said.
Emergency Info BC suggests having an emergency kid and important documents ready to go in case of an evacuation, as well as several days’ clothing and items for pets.
Moving forward, Stephenson said her family is going to have a plan in case chaos ignites again.