Fire, Smoke and Evacuation

Well, we’ve had our first bit of real tense-excitement now on our trip. The area that we are in has been declared a “National Emergency Area”, because of raging forest fires. It started with a single trail of smoke on the northern horizon, which grew and grew into an ugly streak across the sky. Then another one started – a plume of smoke, and a huge plume of cloud growing above it as the air was heated and forced upwards. On the radio we learned that there were 243 forest fires in the area, and 2 big ones had gone out of control. Suddenly, towns were being evacuated, and roads closed.

On Saturday morning we looked out and the skyline had disappeared. A dense smoke had descended over the whole area, for hundreds of miles, which caused the sun to become very hazy, and the air had a pungent smoke smell. The fires were now covering up to 4,000 hectares, and 8,500 people were evacuated.

smokeysunsetAnd then another one started, south of us (the other two were north), and in 24 hours this covered 4,000 hectares. 800 firemen were working on the three fires, and the army were called. In total 10,000 people were evacuated, and our hostel was triangulated between all three! Fortunately the closest one was 20km away, but it certainly ruined the air, and made us a bit nervous.

Three major roads were closed, and instead of heading west from Squilax to Kamloops, we had to head east to Revelstoke. This was because the Kamloops – Jasper highway was closed by the fires, and so a 200km detour is in hand!

“Phew, what a scorcher” turns into “Phew, what a burner”