Pressy Lake residents want to know why more wasn’t done to protect them from wildfire

After the wildfires: Pressy Lake waits for answers
WATCH: The community of Pressy Lake, which lost 33 homes to this summer’s wildfires, is still waiting for answers as to why more wasn’t done to save people’s property. Neetu Garcha reports.

The community of Pressy Lake holds a special place in Martin Reeve’s heart.

He and his wife, Evelyn, had a vacation home there for decades and had just moved out of their home in Victoria to relocate there permanently.

Not long after settling in, the community was ravaged by the Elephant Hill wildfire.

WATCH: Residents of B.C. town burned by forest fires frustrated about lack of information

Residents of B.C. town burned by forest fires frustrated about lack of information
Residents of B.C. town burned by forest fires frustrated about lack of information

“You could sit at the kitchen table and just — I get choked up — look out over the lake,” Reeve said of his former home.

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Thirty-three homes like theirs were burned to the ground.

READ MORE: Pressy Lake, a fire-ravaged B.C. community, wants to know what was done to save it

Residents of the community, that’s just over 60 kilometres southeast of 100 Mile House, want to know what, precisely, the province’s fire crews did to protect them.

When owners asked, they were told to file a freedom of information request.

Coverage of B.C. wildfires on

In response, they got a letter from the B.C. Wildfire Service.

It says four days before the Elephant Hill wildfire tore through the community, structures were assessed but fire officials decided not to set up protection.

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“We felt covered and then to know that they did nothing, I think that’s more heartbreaking than anything,” property owner Wendy Dawes said.

Owners say structural protection crews were stationed in the community on July 28 and wonder why they were pulled out of the area two weeks before the wildfire ravaged Pressy Lake.

READ MORE: Massive Elephant Hill wildfire jumps containment lines

“It seems that we’re not getting answers on purpose,” Dawes said. “If something went wrong and someone made a bad call and it is liability on someone’s part, let us know and compensate us.”

The province said in a statement that it is and will continue supporting those who have lost property. As they wait for a response to their freedom of information requests, adding about 500 pages of documents will be released this week that will provide more information.

“I know a lot of neighbours probably won’t be coming back,” resident Lorne Smith said.

READ MORE: Cranbrook-area wildfire reaches 250 hectares, evacuation order in place

The community may never be the same. And owners want to know that next time will be different.

“What if we all rebuild and then the same thing happens, how are we protected?” Dawes asked.

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But the Reeves, who don’t have insurance, say they might not be able to “build according to all of the new stipulations.”

They’re not only trying to come to grips with the loss of their retirement home but also the reality they may be permanently displaced from a community they love and left wondering if it was all preventable.

– With files from Jesse Ferreras and Nadia Stewart