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One year since the massive Elephant Hill wildfire in the B.C. Interior

A wildfire burns on a mountain behind a home in Cache Creek, B.C., in the early morning hours of Saturday July 8, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

At its peak, the Elephant Hill wildfire was about 192,000 hectares and prompted mass evacuations

Elephant Hill wildfire was human-caused

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – One year ago today, a massive wildfire broke out in the B.C. Interior and burned near Ashcroft and Cache Creek.

The Elephant Hill wildfire was B.C.’s largest in 2017. At its peak, the fire was about 192,000 hectares and it prompted mass evacuations. The fire has been determined as human-caused, but has not been explicitly identified as arson.

“The wind picked up and the fire took off,” recalls Cache Creek mayor John Ranta. “There was a big column of smoke coming from Ashcroft to the south of Cache Creek. I saw that when I was home at lunchtime. It was quite frightening, the amount of smoke that we were seeing.”

“I stood on the stairs at the village office and watched the fire sweep across the hillside to the west of Cache Creek, being driven by the wind as fast as the wind could blow it. It was unbelievable,” he tells NEWS 1130.

All of Cache Creek was evacuated.

“We did have some people stay behind — not by request, but because they wanted to,” says Ranta.

“The volunteer fire department stayed behind, along with what we refer to as the ‘wonder women’ of Cache Creek. [They] kept a pool table — covered with a piece of plywood and a table cloth — covered with food for people from all over the province that were in the community, addressing structure security and whatnot.”

A trailer parked at a campground in Savona, B.C., is seen as the Elephant Hill wildfire burns in the distance near Clinton, illuminating smoke in the sky during the early morning hours of Sunday July 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Today, he’s remembering the fire departments around the province which sent support.

“And our own volunteer fire department was doing 24-hour patrols to put out any hot spots within the village, and they saved a number of structures as a result of their efforts.”

He calls them “hometown heroes.”

Now with wildfire season upon us, Ranta doesn’t think his community is feel as nervous this year as they did last year.

“It was considerably drier last year,” he explains. “It’s not nearly as threatening an environment surrounding the community.”

He’s calling on all of us to do our part.

“We’re ever vigilant, and would encourage your listeners to be very careful with cigarettes and campfires and whatnot,” says Ranta. “Because so many of the fires which started last year were human caused, and we need to keep that as much as possible at a minimum.”