Wildfire near Monte Lake forces evacuations, highway closure

By Chad Klassen
July 26, 2017 - 5:30pm Updated: July 27, 2017 - 12:06pm

MONTE LAKE, B.C. — A local state of emergency has been declared in Electoral 'Area L' within the TNRD and nearly 60 properties have been order to evacuate north of Monte Lake.

As of Thursday morning, the fire is now burning 150 hectares and is near people's homes. 58 properties in the area, including 37 on Paxton Valley Road, have been ordered to leave.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Martin Mountain wildfire started as a small spot-sized fire and grew as the evening wore on due to winds that fanned the flames and increased the aggressiveness of the fire.

WATCH: Full report from the fire-zone

"The fire is fairly near the structures," said fire information officer Max Birkner. "That being said, from what I've seen, none of those structures have been affected. However, we do understand there are homes up in the hills here that cannot be seen from the area of the highway."

In addition to the 37 properties on Paxton Valley Road, 11 places on Highway 97 have been ordered to evacuate, as well as five on Kristianson Road, four homes on Westlund Road, and one on Strong Road. 

The B.C. Wildfire Service is suggesting people try to get out as quick as possible, even if owners have cattle. Others are just trying to get home to their pets.

"I'm not sure. I've got my dog there and stuff," said local resident Richard Roch. "I'm waiting to find out where my dog is. I'll camp out for the night if I have to."

The fire has been meters of Highway 97 since it ignited on Wednesday afternoon. Property owners were doing everything possible to keep their homes safe if the flames happened to jump the highway. That has not happened, however.

Others stuck most of the evening, either not able to get home past the roadblock or being evacuated. 

"My wife phoned me. She lives up in Paxton Valley with me, two kilometres up the road," said local resident Don Tryon. "She phoned and said an evacuation is going on, fire was coming, and she wanted me to come right away. So I drove here and got stopped on the freeway, so we can't go up. My wife is at Monte Lake."

There are 31 ground crews working to control the spread of the fire, as well as air crews that were laying down retardant to suppress the flames.

Fire officials say it's too early to determine an exact cause, but some residents that live nearby say they witnessed a motorist flick a cigarette out the window. 

"It makes me feel horrible because from what I gather, this was lit by a cigarette, which is just foolish to me," noted Roch. "It's bad enough when Mother Nature causes its own grief. But when people are put through grief on the count of someone else, I don't find much excuse for that." 

Highway 97 is closed in both directions about two kilometres north of Monte Lake. For the latest information, check out Drive BC for road closures. 

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