SICAMOUS (NEWS 1130) – With hundreds of fires continuing to burn across the province, more and more communities are being threatened, including Sicamous in the Shuswap, east of Kamloops.
Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz says he spoke with his local fire chief just early Tuesday morning about any potential response to a fire threat.
“At 7:30 a.m., I’m in my office, having this conversation. About 2.5 hours later, I get a call,” he described.
That call was about a car crash the night before, which sparked a wildfire that required the immediate evacuation of dozens of properties, covering much of the south of Sicamous.
“That’s how quick things can change in a community. Generally speaking, wildfires happen suddenly. This was a prime example of that,” Rysz said, adding he’s impressed with BC Wildfire Service crews’ response.
“Within 20 minutes, they had aerial attack on this fire,” he said. “That was real incredible, that real quick response … I cannot get over how skilled those operators are in both the airplanes and especially the helicopters. Absolutely amazing, what they were able to accomplish in such a short time.”
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Those in Sicamous who have not been ordered out of their homes are under an evacuation alert.
“We can see it right out or back window,” said Jenny Brooks, who runs Licks N Splits ice cream shop, located in the alert zone. “It’s a very large plume of smoke. It’s only gotten bigger.”
She says it’s been nerve-wracking, watching for which direction the smoke is heading.
“I have a go bag. I’ve got everything packed and ready to go, in case. We were considering closing, but there were still customers coming,” she said.
Staying open has been helpful for many people in the community, as some sense of normalcy in an otherwise tense situation.
“It made some people happy. It gave them a place to kind of sit down and relax a little.”
The owner of After Dark Distillery, which is also located in the part of community under an evacuation alert, also says it’s still business as usual.
“We can see the smoke. We’re two miles away,” Dean Perry told CityNews, adding smoke has been blowing away from them.
“It looks like the fire is heading eastward from us, up and over the mountain. It’s not coming directly to us, as the wind is pushing it that way,” he explained.
Perry says they have no plans of closing up shop anytime soon, noting employees were still bottling up whisky on Wednesday.
He’s not worried, adding he has full confidence in fire crews. But he’s ready to leave at a moment’s notice, if need be.
“All it takes is a wind change,” he said.
More than 1,000 people living in Sicamous have been forced from their homes.
As a precaution, the Eagle Valley Manor assisted living facility and the Sicamous Health Centre were also evacuated with patients being moved to neighbouring communities.
Across the B.C. Interior, there are strong winds in the forecast, as more than 3,000 firefighters work to suppress the flames threatening dozens of communities.