Speedy hearth burned tires as a lady escaped Monte Lake, BC – Victoria Information

A man who lost his family’s home in Monte Lake, BC said his sister escaped while her vehicle’s tires were melting.

Kevin Cooke said his sister Jackie Cooke left when the fire department told her to do so, but she was unable to save her cats, birds, or her mother’s ashes from the oncoming wildfire.

She managed to collect the dogs, he said.

“When she left, the tires on her van melted,” he said in an interview from Sylvan Lake, Alta. “All she wanted to do was get a box of my mother’s ashes, but she couldn’t even do that.”

Jackie Cooke is one of many who was driven from their homes on Friday by the wind-fueled wildfire in central BC.

He said the family had hoped the property would be safe as the fire department was pumping water right next to the house to fight the wildfire.

Kevin Cooke finally managed to get hold of his sister over the weekend and she told him she was surprised by the speed of the fire.

“Hell broke out, it came down the valley so damn fast,” he said. “It jumped over the tracks and came up on both sides.”

There is no warning from the district or the government of the fire threat, he said.

The property is not insured, Cooke said, as an insurance inspector postponed an inspection due to COVID-19.

Cooke said he started an online fundraiser to help his sister get back on her feet and take care of the animals she looked after.

The devastation comes as cooler temperatures and better fire conditions have given the crews respite in their efforts to combat the wild fire at White Rock Lake, the same one that swept through Monte Lake.

Taylor MacDonald, a fire intelligence officer for the BC Wildfire Service, said the fire – which burned nearly 560 square kilometers – did not show much growth on Monday.

“It was a little respite for our crews on site,” she said. “We continue to monitor the weather.”

More than 160 firefighters as well as 138 building protection officers, 16 helicopters and 53 heavy equipment are fighting the fire.

Weather forecasts show hot, dry weather is returning to the area, which MacDonald says is keeping the fire department closely watching.

According to the Ministry of Forestry, around 270 forest fires are currently burning, most of them in the southern interior of the country, eight of which were ignited in the past two days.

Forest Fire Service said it has begun evacuating an emergency station south of the fire, using heavy equipment to scrape away bushes and debris if the wildfire continues.

MacDonald also had advice for local residents who may have chosen to stay back to work to save their property from the fire that broke in.

“We have well-trained and well-equipped firefighters on site who can safely fight the fire,” she said. “It doesn’t make it safe to do their job if they have to worry about residents who haven’t been evacuated or are staying behind to fight the fire.”

Public Security Secretary Mike Farnworth said in a statement he understands the stress of residents being forced to leave their homes, but stressed that evacuation orders and warnings are not taken lightly.

“People must follow these instructions and leave immediately if an evacuation order is issued,” he said.

A humid weekend allowed the city of Vernon to lift its evacuation alert, triggered by the same fire, despite orders or warnings from three regional counties, two parishes and two First Nations.

The province says nearly 6,600 homes across BC are on evacuation orders while residents of more than 32,000 homes have been told they are ready to leave on short notice.

– Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Weather Stops Significant Growth at White Rock Lake Fire: BC Wildfire Service

RELATED: Dog Thrown From Car During Forest Fire Evacuation, Adopted by Central Okanagan Search and Rescue

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