Family recounts experience leaving behind house engulfed by Nohomin Creek Fire

·3 min read
Louise Johnny and her family had to flee their home in the Lytton First Nation. Their house, whose remnants are pictured here, was destroyed by the Nohomin Creek wildfire.  (Submitted by Louise Johnny - image credit)
Louise Johnny and her family had to flee their home in the Lytton First Nation. Their house, whose remnants are pictured here, was destroyed by the Nohomin Creek wildfire. (Submitted by Louise Johnny - image credit)

Louise Johnny says she has been on an emotional roller coaster ride after she and her family were forced to flee their home, located on reserve lands in the Lytton First Nation, as a result of the Nohomin Creek wildfire.

"They're like mood swings — they keep coming and going, and coming and going," Johnny told Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South.

The Lytton First Nation said the blaze, which has been burning for a week and now measures about 20 square kilometres, has destroyed at least 10 structures on its reserves.

At least 95 people have fled from the reserves under evacuation orders, according to authorities.

Johnny is one of them.

Maggie MacPherson/CBC
Maggie MacPherson/CBC

She says she was on her way home from Lillooet when she found out the fire was fast approaching their house, located on reserve land 27B, right across Lytton, B.C.

"My daughter called me from the house and she said, 'There's a fire!'

"I hurried back … my husband was sitting on the lawn chair watching the fire, and I was looking at the fire coming towards us," she said.

Johnny rushed into the house to pack everything she could into suitcases, she said — clothes, medicine, food for her family and their pets.

When her husband ran into the house with firefighters behind him, she said she realized she was running out of time.

"I just grabbed my prescription bottle, threw it in my suitcase and zipped it up, and threw it into in the truck."

Johnny said she started to panic when the flames appeared to be 20 feet high.

"I was like, 'Oh, my gosh!' We were trying to get dogs in. We didn't even grab leashes, nothing. We just grabbed our animal, got into the vehicle and oh, my gosh, we just took off."

Protecting historic sites

On Tuesday, the B.C. Wildfire Service warned that warmer and drier weather expected throughout the week could fuel potentially volatile conditions as crews battle the out-of-control fire that is pushing toward Stein Valley Nlaka'pamux Heritage Park.

Lytton First Nation Deputy Chief John Haugen said the park has significant cultural meaning for people in the Indigenous community — it contains pictograph panels and petroglyphs, or rock carvings, that have existed for millennia.

B.C. Parks area supervisor Michelle Weibe says the province has been working closely with the First Nation for the UNESCO designation of the archeological sites, and is committed to protecting those sites from fire.

"We are very cognizant there are many other sites that have yet to be identified [in the park], and that will be something that we will dive into," she said on CBC's Radio West.

Meanwhile, Johnny and her husband, 19-year-old son, 18-year-old daughter, four dogs and a cat are now in Lytton, staying in the one-bedroom trailer with power and running water provided by Lytton First Nation authorities.

She said those who lost homes to the Lytton fire last year have said it may take about two years to rebuild their home.

Still, she's doing her best to stay positive.

"We have so much food that we have to say, 'We don't need more,'" she said. "[The] next step is when can we get our house rebuilt."

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