Unsung heroes in Sitkum Creek Wildfire — Nelson Search and Rescue Team
It’s never good receiving a knock on the door in the middle of the night.
But many residents in the Sitkum Creek/Willow Point/Six Mile Lakes Road area are grateful for work of RCMP officers and Nelson’s Search and Rescue members Saturday night.
“Everyone was fired up, pardon the pun,” said Nelson’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Manager Sean Slimmon.
Slimmon received the call to issue an evacuation alert to residents between the Sitkum Creek/Six Mile area at 9:30 p.m. Saturday night (July 4).
By 10:30 p.m., a team of ten SAR volunteers and six RCMP officers had assembled to spread the alert to the approximately 350 residences threatened by the blaze.
The team went door-to-door until 3:30 a.m., sharing information with concerned residents and cautioning them to be prepared to leave at a moments notice
“When you’re that close adrenaline runs high,” Slimmon said. “We could see flames exploding over the trees.”
A handful of SAR volunteers living within the evacuation zone left their own homes to help their neighbors.
“We were out there helping our neighbours and crossing our fingers that the fire wouldn’t advance towards our own homes,” said Slimmon. “My wife was worried.”
“It helps to have a friendly face tell the bad news. It reassures people to see a someone familiar, even if it’s at 2 a.m.,” Slimmon added.
Local photographer Ryan Flett was having dinner with his family on Heddle Road when they received a knock on the door at 11 p.m.
“We were sitting on our deck watching this wall of flame advance towards us and we were becoming pretty concerned because there were no firefighters in sight,” said Flett. “We started to wonder, who’s on this?”
At that moment a SAR volunteer arrived, explaining that a shift in wind was diverting the fire away from residences, yet cautioning the family to have their valuables packed and be ready to evacuate should the alert turn into an order.
“The response of the search and rescue was amazing,” said Flett. “It was reassuring to have someone come to our door and make sure we were okay. We were really impressed.”
Flett then drove to 7-mile beach where approximately 50 local residents were gathered to watch the blaze.
While the fire continues to fill the valley with smoke, residents and volunteers are pleased with the efficacy of the SAR response.
“It was heartening to see the community pull together,” said SAR Manager Sean Slimmon. “We received a lot of gratitude.”
Today, residents are still on evacuation alert and the 380-hectare wildfire continues to burn.
However, BC Wildfire Service reports that the fire is holding within retardant lines.
Duhamel and Sitkum Creek residents can receive an update of the wildfire during a public information meeting on Wednesday, (July 8) at 7 p.m at ecole des Sentiers-alpins (French language school, formally A.I. Collinson) located at 2780 Highway 3A concerning the wildfire.