Couple who lost home in B.C. wildfire settle into new house

A year and a half after their dream retirement home went up in flames in a B.C. wildfire, Lorne Smith and his wife Cheryl have built a new home in the exact same spot.

In August 2017, the Smiths moved into a house in Pressy Lake — 150 kilometres northwest of Kamloops, B.C. — which they had just purchased and renovated.

Two weeks later, the house burned to the ground in the Elephant Hill wildfire, which destroyed 33 homes at Pressy Lake.

Smith had just retired prior to the blaze, and he and Cheryl lost nearly everything they owned.

"We only got two months out of [the old house] before we got evacuated, and never saw the home again," Smith told Radio West host Sarah Penton. 

"It's incredible to be back home."

Submitted by Lorne Smith

Aftermath

Smith said the road to rebuilding was rocky, namely, there were issues getting approval for a new septic system from the Thompson Nicola Regional District.

"There were times that we thought about just giving up," said Smith. 

Many other Pressy Lake residents are rebuilding their homes.

"As devastating as it was and as traumatic as it was, it brought a lot of people together."

Lorne Smith/Facebook

Smith says the community is still dealing with the effects of the fire. Areas are flooding as there is no vegetation in the hills to hold back water runoff.

Smith says roads are filled with mud and potholes, and are flooding.

He doubts there will be fires in Pressy Lake this year because many people in the community have taken preventative measures to protect their properties from fire, such as removing and pruning vegetation, which act as fuels for wildfires.

Smith says while the original house was their dream retirement home, the new one is better.

The Smiths now have a 10-year warranty on the house in case something else goes wrong. He says they're happy, but the last two years have been difficult. 

"If someone asked, 'if you had to do it all again could you do it?' I honestly don't know."

Listen to the full story here:

With files by Radio West