July 11, 2017 1:01 am
Updated: July 11, 2017 1:02 am

B.C. First Nation communities fight desperately to save their homes from wildfire

Mon, Jul 10: As a more than 6,000-hectare wildfire continues to burn near Ashcroft, we are learning more about the devastation on the Ashcroft Reserve and the heroes who helped to save area properties. Paul Johnson reports.

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While tens of thousands of people flee the B.C. wildfire zones to evacuation centres across the province, a small number are staying behind in a desperate bid to save their homes.

Among them are members of the Bonaparte Indian Band, just north of Ashcroft, who are digging in to protect their reserve.

READ MORE: What it’s like to be a volunteer firefighter on the front lines of B.C.’s wildfires

About 150 people live on the reserve, according to Chief Ryan Day.

More than a third of them remained behind after an Evacuation Order was issued for the Village of Cache Creek.

“In a lot of First Nations communities, some of them are taking a stand like we did. I’m not overstating it when I say if we all evacuated, we would have no houses on this reserve,” Day said.

WATCH: Wildfire near Princeton continues to grow


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To the northwest, members of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation are also taking a stand.

Between 250 and 300 volunteers have stayed behind to help protect the four of the nation’s six communities threatened by wildfires and are calling on the government for more support.

READ MORE: Behold, a pink horse: mom in B.C. wildfire zone laughs hysterically after son’s paint job

Day said the wildfires have hit First Nations people particularly hard, especially those who live in rural communities.

He said volunteers have been exhausted by the last few days, but are keeping busy by putting up sprinklers and snuffing out spot fires.

“We are still working, so we are clearing fuel around structures. If [the fire] does come back down, we want to be here fighting for our homes,” he said.

An emergency operations center has been set up at the band’s hall.

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