Har­row­ing video cap­tures ter­ri­fy­ing drive from B.C. wild­fires

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - Go to thes­pec.com to see the video of the wild­fire

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — At first, the drive didn’t seem too bad.

Sally Aitken and her hus­band de­cided to leave their cabin in Bri­tish Columbia’s West Chilcotin re­gion due to wild­fires on Sun­day. They were not or­dered to evac­u­ate, but had been with­out power for days and the only high­way out had re­cently re­opened.

As they drove along High­way 20, they saw noth­ing overly dra­matic: light smoke, burned trees. Then they sud­denly they found them­selves in the mid­dle of an in­tense blaze, with flames leap­ing on ei­ther side of the road and smoke so dark they could barely see.

“Your choice is, when it gets bad, do you turn around ... and then you have to go through what you’ve al­ready been through, or do you just keep go­ing? We just kept go­ing,” re­called Aitken in an in­ter­view.

“It was alarm­ing but you can’t panic be­cause you’ve got to get out of the sit­u­a­tion and you’ve got to think clearly.”

Aitken, a pro­fes­sor in for­est and con­ser­va­tion sciences at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, shot a video of the har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and posted it on so­cial me­dia. She hopes the video will be in­struc­tive to peo­ple who are flee­ing the hun­dreds of blazes across B.C.

“Peo­ple re­ally need to fol­low the ad­vice of the pro­fes­sion­als who are telling them when to evac­u­ate,” she said. “But we also need to keep in mind that fire be­hav­iour is very un­pre­dictable. As quickly as the

weather shifts, the fire shifts.”

Pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials said Tues­day that 219 fires were burn­ing and over 14,000 peo­ple had been forced from their homes. Thou­sands more are un­der evac­u­a­tion alerts, mean­ing they must be pre­pared to leave at a mo­ment’s no­tice.

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