Hudson's hopeful: Northern B.C. wildfire evacuees find support from neighbours

·3 min read
Heavy smoke lingers in northern B.C., as the Battleship Mountain wildfire forced the evacuation of the community of Hudson's Hope, B.C., on Saturday. (CBC - image credit)
Heavy smoke lingers in northern B.C., as the Battleship Mountain wildfire forced the evacuation of the community of Hudson's Hope, B.C., on Saturday. (CBC - image credit)

Diana Jewan was celebrating her grandson's birthday on Saturday as ash fell from an eerie, orange sky.

The Battleship Mountain wildfire, ignited about 50 kilometres west of Hudson's Hope, B.C., was drawing near.

Shortly after the party, an evacuation order was issued, forcing hundreds of residents to leave the area and head for Fort St. John, about 85 kilometres to the northeast.

As of Tuesday evening, the fire was an estimated 288 square kilometres in size and was classified as out of control. Officials say the fire is eight kilometres from the District of Hudson's Hope boundary, and four kilometres from the W.A.C. Bennett Dam.

Watch | Building manager describes waking up tenants as wildfire approaches:

Jewan was prepared to evacuate; she had already packed some clothes and other belongings.

She followed her friends out of the community, but the unexpected happened: her car broke down.

"That was terrifying," she said.

B.C. Wildfire Service
B.C. Wildfire Service

Jewan called the RCMP for help, which sent a towing company from Fort St. John to help her out.

"The community here in Fort St. John being as kind and welcoming as they are, it's helping," she said.

'Everything we can'

Fort St. John Councillor Trevor Bolin has been helping evacuees connect with services, such as shelter and animal care, as they arrive in town.

He said everyone has been housed either in hotels, campgrounds or with family and friends, and local people have been offering whatever they can to help their neighbours from Hudson's Hope.

Watch | City councillor says city pulling together to help evacuees:

On Tuesday, Fort St. John city council voted to waive the fees for recreational facilities for Hudson's Hope residents staying in the area.

"We're certainly willing to do anything and everything we can."

Evacuees hope to return home soon

Evacuees are scared and worried, he said.

"They're leaving behind everything they have and and all they've got left now is the news," he said.

"I think they're growing more worrisome and I don't blame them."

CBC
CBC

More than 500 evacuees have checked in at the local emergency support services reception centre, including Tina Jeffrey and her five-year-old son.

She said she had been preparing to evacuate, and packed up things of sentimental value, but was unable to get the essentials she'd need such as clothes and everyday items.

Her son brought along about 50 dinosaur toys, she laughed.

"That was his essentials."

She said several moms and children had a group play-date on Monday to bring community members together and offer support to those who needed to go out and run errands.

Explaining this to her son was the most difficult part of leaving, Jeffrey said.

"My child could see my anxiety," she said. "I was trying not to show it but he was asking lots of questions."

B.C. Wildfire Service
B.C. Wildfire Service

She said she stopped and explained to him that this isn't the end, what was happening was for safety reasons, and encouraged him to be hopeful and think positively.

Jeffrey hopes they'll be able to return soon — but the future remains uncertain as the wildfire continues to spread.

Ester Allen, who manages a 36-unit apartment building in Hudson's Hope, said she's been texting her tenants to make sure they understand the evacuation order.

"We're just sitting here biding our time," she said.

She is hopeful they'll be back in their homes by Monday.