15 minutes. That was all the time that Randy Fairweather and Tracy Richardson were given to evacuate their home in Squilax, a small settlement located on the northeast shore of Little Shuswap Lake, British Columbia.
Today, the couple is in Calgary, with Fairweather's sister, thankful that they are alive and thankful that Richardson's family member, Airdrie resident, April Williams has set up a GoFundMe page for the couple; a couple who is trying to grapple with losing a home not once, but twice to fire.
"It was Friday [August 18] when we lost our place. There was no evacuation where we were and then they had five RCMP vehicles roll into our trailer park and told us we had to go," Fairweather said. "It was a matter of grabbing the animals and just the clothes on your back."
Fairweather said that while other surrounding areas did receive emergency alert notifications of evacuation orders, they didn't get any notice at all. As embers fell around them, Fairweather said that panic and tears were the only thing memorable from the day. Their mobile home was obliterated by the Bush Creek East fire (which was formerly named the Adams Complex wildfire)
"We thought we'd have a lot more time, [but] it came up so fast over the mountain... The last 10 to 15 minutes - it was just raining fire around you."
But it wasn't just their home that was engulfed in flames and destroyed, Richardson's place of work - a small gas station where she had worked for a number of years, also burned down.
"That [went] up in flames 10 minutes before our place caught on fire, which is why the RCMP had to come down. Everyone was in a panic. It [the wildfire] came over the mountain and went 22 kilometres and six hours."
Although the couple, along with their dog is over 600 kilometres away from the flames and smoke, it is difficult to fathom how they will move forward, especially since they were living paycheck to paycheck in the hopes of rebuilding their lives from a previous fire. After a house fire destroyed their previous dwelling several years ago, the couple was gradually re-building and adding to their current mobile home.
"This time we didn't have any insurance because we were doing an add-on and when your place is under construction they won't insure you," Fairweather explained.
According to B.C. Housing, there are exceptions to the Home Warranty Insurance on new homes.
"The Act and Regulation also exempt[s] manufactured homes, including mobile home from the requirements for home warranty insurance, registration fees, reconstruction fees and builder licensing..."
The GoFundMe campaign, in Fairweather's view, has been a lifeline.
"If it wasn't for my sister and the GoFundMe... The money we did have in the bank we were putting towards rebuilding," he said. "I've seen and heard of GoFundMe, but I never knew you could do it for stuff like this."
For her part, April Williams, who also has family in West Kelowna said that while everyone was tracking the news from Kelowna, they had no idea the situation in the Shuswap region would deteriorate so fast.
"I think [setting up the fundraising campaign came out of] deep concern for the family. This is the second time that they have lost their home to fire and knowing that they're displaced; there's so much chaos right now," she said. "We just wanted to try to do something to help them to have enough funds to not be stressed."
In four days' time, the fundraiser has amassed nearly $5,000.
"We're pretty much at or close to our goal already. It was really surprising to see the outpouring of support. There are people that donated from all over Alberta - from across the world - there's one family [that donated] from Texas; it's amazing," Williams said.
Though Fairweather has been a lifelong B.C. resident, he underlined that this year's wildfire season is something he has never experienced before.
"This just seemed to be fires burning all over the province and bigger fires too. This is the worst I've ever seen it."
There are 376 wildfires currently burning in British Columbia. 153 of those fires are deemed out of control. At least 18 wildfires are considered 'of note'- meaning that they are highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety. The Bush Creek East fire is considered to be of note. As of August 20, it is estimated that the fire size is 41,041 Hectares.
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