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Ranchers near 100 Mile House defy evacuation order, fight to save homes

Lightning threatens more Cariboo region wildfires
Wed, Jul 12: Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond discusses the potential for more lightning in the area and warns pleasure boaters to avoid water bomber supply routes

First Nations near Williams Lake and Ashcroft aren’t the only ones defying evacuation orders and staying home with the B.C. wildfires bearing down on their communities.

Near 100 Mile House, one group of farmers and ranchers is staying put and banding together to try to keep the flames from destroying everything they have.

LISTEN: Ranchers aren’t ready to leave their homes near 100 Mile House

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Ed Monical is one of the ranchers who’s been forced to transition from herding cattle to cutting fire lines.

Until now, it’s something he had little experience with, other than helping his dad put out a few grass fires on the family land years ago.

Wildfires burn behind a ranch near 100 Mile House.
Wildfires burn behind a ranch near 100 Mile House. Supplied

He said he’s never seen anything like this.

“This inferno that went by, it was only several hundred feet away,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. wildfire status Wednesday: All eyes on the weather

It’s been days of stress, and in some cases bitter defeat: one of the neighbour’s houses burned down this week, despite their efforts to save it.

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Gallery: Click to see 100 Mile House ranchers fighting to save their properties

But for the most part, it’s been a case of a community coming together to overcome the odds.

“[The neighbours] came here to my house when the inferno came by, hosed down the roof and looked for spot fires in the grass. And then as soon as it went by, we went up and tried to help the neighbours’ houses,” Monical said.
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A rancher uses a hose to put out hotspots by a home near 100 Mile House.
A rancher uses a hose to put out hotspots by a home near 100 Mile House. Supplied

That effort involved using a 500-gallon tank in the back of his truck to pump water into tubs all around the property – then wetting towels and smothering spot fires in the grass by hand as they came close to homes.

“It’s just neighbours helping neighbours,” an emotional Monical said. “It’s been tough but we’re still here. A lot of neighbours’ houses are still here too.”

“The air support was fantastic. They came in with choppers and dropped water on all of these houses.”

Ranchers carve out their own fire lines in a bid to protect their homes.
Ranchers carve out their own fire lines in a bid to protect their homes. Supplied

But fighting off the flames is just one of the challenges the community faces.

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With the evacuation order in place, residents are legally required to stay on their properties and off of public roads, Monical said.

READ MORE: Drone video shows devastation in Boston Flats after wildfire rips through region

Thick smoke fills the sky as the forest burns behind a home near 100 Mile House.
Thick smoke fills the sky as the forest burns behind a home near 100 Mile House. Supplied

That has meant a shortage of resources like the fuel they’re using to run water pumps to fight the fires or to bring power to their farms.

One of their neighbours runs an ostrich farm that currently has hens that want to hatch eggs, as well as chicks; she’s having trouble keeping the heat lamps running that the birds depend on.

“The conservation officers now acting as police officers are really hassling, forcing us to try and stay on our own property,” he said.

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“And so therefore we can’t go give this lady gasoline because we’re breaking the law.”

Ranchers use a water tank in the back of a pickup to try and hose down dry brush.
Ranchers use a water tank in the back of a pickup to try and hose down dry brush. Supplied

But despite all of the challenges – and the potential danger of encroaching flames — Monical said he has no plans to leave the community he grew up in.

“Oh hell no. We’ll stick it out,” he said.