Watching how fast the fire spread is something I will never forget. In just the first hour after it was reported on July 29th it grew to four hectares from a single lightning strike. In the days that followed, from our vantage point at the radio station, we watched as the fire spread across the slopes of the Fly Hills.
As frightening as it all was up until that point, it seemed controlled. When the high winds and high temperatures on August 5th combined to push the fire across the Salmon Valley and on to Mount Ida that’s when it got scary. Talk about witnessing the awesome power of nature. There were fireballs the size of Volkswagens flying through the air. You could see the sparks of fire and ash raining down across the valley and while I was talking to people on the phone who were assisting the evacuation of the fire zone, the wind sounded like a freight train rushing down on top of them.
Up until the 5th, there had been all kinds of aircraft – helicopters, air tankers, the 2 Martin Mars water bombers – dropping water and retardant on the fire. When the fire took off that day, BCFS had to pull all the aircraft off the site. By that time half the town had been evacuated. It was just eerie. Smoke, fire, ash, the hillsides glowing red and no traffic, no people out and about, no wildlife, nothing.
I still get goose bumps every time I remember that summer. I’ll also never forget the response of everyone in the community. It was amazing to see everyone pulling together to manage a disaster of that scope and intensity – brings new meaning to the term neighbour.
Jocelyn Crouse, CKXR
Photo credit in order of appearance:
1. Gayle Mavor, Salmon Arm Observer, c. 1996
2. Sally Scales, Shopper’s Guide, c. 1998