Susan and I left the Resource Building late afternoon on July 7, 2017. We both worked for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. We could already see a large smoke cloud to the north in the direction of the airport and Fire Centre. We later took a drive up by Wal Mart where you could see the fire clouds much more clearly. It was very obvious that a disaster was in the making.
Susan was asked to work at the CRD Emergency Operations Centre for liaison with First Nations communities. I was staying at home at first while things escalated, but offered to help out there too as a back-up First Nations liaison and range contact. Because of a wee bit of inside info, I was already packing up a trailer load of important home stuff, collectables, art, heirlooms, etc. and a neighbour noticed me and asked if an evacuation notice was coming. I said I didn’t know for sure, but I think he got the idea.
Things leveled out a bit and they didn’t need me at the EOC anymore, then the evacuation happened in town, and rather than hide in the basement, I volunteered to work at the Fire Centre. Though a 35 year veteran of resource management with government, and promised an important position, I was instead given a job pulling staples and photo-copying contracts and other things, which gets pretty boring during a 12 hour shift, and looking at a 14 day straight run. At least I could live in town at our own house while commuting to the fire centre. So, a friend doing Human Resource recruiting for the Fire Centre walked by and asked if there was anything else I could do. She said they were looking for a Heli-base manager, to replace the fellow returning to Ontario. He showed me the ropes, seemed pretty straight forward, maintain the heli-base at the airport like dampening dust, getting lunches for the pilots, taking away garbage, obtaining supplies like water and chemicals for the fire retardant. HOWEVER, I found out that while there were three fellas from Ontario running the heli-base, there would now be only two BC guys, and I was going to become a dispatcher, with around 20 helicopters flying in and out all day, working a cell phone, a couple radios, and people running in and out. The most stressful 14 days of my work life, I survived, learned lots, eventually the folks were allowed back into the town. Was told later by a co-worker that their predictions were that the fire was almost 90% likely to get into the town, which it thankfully never did. Credit to all the fire staff, pilots and all the support workers, and the weather!
During our stay in Williams Lake while everyone was evacuated, living here was so creepy with no cars, no dogs, no kids, red skies all the time, choking on smoke many days. Very dystopian!