B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general had some harsh words for residents who didn’t evacuate their homes Thursday night due to the massive White Rock Lake fire.
Some residents in the Monte Lake area did not leave their homes when an evacuation order was issued.
When the wildfire jumped the highway and roared towards the community, those people became trapped and couldn’t escape.
The BC Wildfire Service said firefighters on the front lines had to abandon fighting the fire and rescue the people who were trapped.
“If an evacuation order is issued, follow all the instructions and leave the area immediately,” Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said Friday. “This fire is aggressive and escape routes can be compromised.
“Let me be clear: Staying behind in an evacuated area not only risks your own life and the life of your family but it also risks the lives of those tasked with fighting the fire.”
Farnworth said the wildfire crews had to put their lives on the line to rescue those who “believed they know better” and remained behind.
“These brave firefighters very nearly paid with their lives,” he said. “By any measure, this is completely unacceptable.”
This has been an aggressive and challenging fire season and already more than 580,000 hectares have burned.
The White Rock Lake fire continues to be the biggest concern and has already forced more evacuation orders Friday morning.
The village of Chase has also been placed under an evacuation alert.
Farnworth said the province has some penalties it can issue if people do not obey evacuation orders and can issue fines up to $10,000 but the government has never had to use them in the past.
“If it’s an evacuation order, leave immediately,” he said.
“They are putting their lives in danger. They are putting the lives of firefighters in danger. They are hindering efforts to get the wildfires under control.
“They may think they know what they are doing but the fact is, they don’t.”
About 2,500 properties are under evacuation orders due to the White Rock Lake fire, which is an estimated 45,000 hectares in size.