The Motley Crue song “Home Sweet Home” couldn’t have been more true this past week when we were finally allowed back into our home after 15 days of evacuation from the destructive forest fires that raged and continue to rage around central British Columbia.  If you read my last two blogs, you’d have a sense of the scary time I was going through.  Living on an evacuation order and alert is not a fun way to live.  There is a heightened sense of paranoia that goes along with living in a danger zone, where even though the fire is contained 100 percent, you know flare ups are inevitable, and in reality, it could start the fires again at any time.  You see, I learned a lot over the last couple of weeks.  I learned about fires.  I learned about how much I take the small things for granted.  I learned how nice it is to go home.  Going through something like this changes a person.  I’m a changed man, and I think for the better, with everything that’s gone on.  But what I’ve gone through over the last few weeks, I wouldn’t wish on my worst of enemies.   The fear of losing your home and everything you’ve worked hard for is scary to say the least.  When you’re evacuated, you only have time to grab what you feel is important, and then there’s the limit of room as well, which means you’re limited in space for how much you can take before your vehicle(s) are full.  Deciding what’s important out of all your possessions is difficult to say the least, because literally, you have to be willing to sacrifice 98 percent of your belongings, from food, to pots and pans, to televisions, toys for the kids, clothing, memorabilia; everything!!!!
But on Saturday, July 22nd, it was announced we were able to go home.  The fire was contained to where safety was less of a concern, but we are still on alert, and if the fire flares up again, we must be prepared to bug out once again.  We were lucky. Walking into our house at about 8:40pm that night, after travelling up from the B.C. Coast was emotional to say the least.  On the trip up, we were able to see the disaster of the Ashcroft Reserve Fire.  It looked like a nuclear wasteland, covered by red streaks of fire retardant painted on the hillsides.  Coming into our town, 100 Mile House, we were welcomed by signs reading “Welcome Home”, and by RCMP officers stationed along the highway stopping people to welcome them back.  It was tear jerking and emotional to say thank you to them for everything they had done to keep people safe.  When we started to enter town, we went on Facebook Live to show the event.  It was our first time looking at town, and it seemed different.  It still felt like home, but there was an innocence lost type feeling to our community.  Canadian Flags were everywhere, blowing in the wind proudly, which I took as a middle finger from us to the fires that we could not be defeated.  As we drove out of town into the 101 through the 103 Mile area, that’s where we started seeing the destruction.  Dead trees, that were once beautiful and full of life, were now charred black and grey from top to bottom.  Fauna and once green bushes were now gone, and part of the scorched ground of black.  And this was right along the highway.  If the fire had jumped the highway at the 103, a couple hundred houses would have been lost.
From there, we drove past the 105, with the destruction out of its way.  We then drove up to the 108 Mile Ranch area, and turned in to head home.  Home.  It still makes me choke up a bit, even typing that.  We drove past the school, then the fire house, and turned to go up our street.  Pulling into our driveway, I was hit with emotion.  Seeing my house still standing was an emotional release I never thought I would have.   Here I am on Facebook Live, crying, because we made it.  Our home, our treasures, our piece of sanctuary had survived.  We were okay.  We just sat there, in our truck, taking it in, crying, overwhelmed with what had taken place the last 15 days, staring at our home, like a long lost child returning home for the first time in a long time. Our home was safe.  Walking into our house, we were prepared for the worst.  Yet it was surprising there was no campfire smell inside.  And our fridge wasn’t as stinky as we thought it would be.  In fact, our fridge and freezers survived, even with power being off for four days in the area, as they shut the grid down so no electrical fires were caused by the coming flames.  Nothing a few garbage bags and cleaning supplies couldn’t cure.  We got everything back, thank GOD!
I was talking with a couple of volunteer fire fighters in the area, and the stories they told me were downright freaky.  How the flames were so hot in certain areas that the water they were spraying on them wasn’t doing a damn thing.  Imagine that, thousands of gallons of water not putting out a fire.  In my area of the 108, two families weren’t so lucky as they lost their homes.  The only remnants of the charred remains were their chimney’s still standing.  On Block Drive, where the houses burned, when the fire jumped the road, the fire experts were ready to lose the entire 108, which was about 500 homes, including mine.  The 108 was so dry and the trees were so spread apart to get the fires the oxygen they need to keep going, it would have been one hell of a destructive site.  However, call it a prayer answered, a hand of God helping out, or Mother Nature not wanting to see that happen, the wind shifted.  And what happened next was a fire fighter’s miracle.  After the fire had jumped the road, the high easterly winds that were blowing the fire into the 108, just stopped.  The winds then changed direction, and for some unknown reason, baffling the forest fire experts,  the wind then started blowing heavily to the west, and in towards itself.  So the fire shifted direction, and started heading back towards the direction it came.  The entire 108 was saved because of that.  That shift in wind allowed the fire crews to get a handle on the flames, and win.  Water was now dousing the flames, and they were going out.  It was a close call for sure.
But here’s where I learned more about myself and the realities of this situation.  I learned the importance of a “Bug Out” room in my house.  So on the Sunday, our first full day home, I ripped apart one of my storage areas, and started filling it with evacuation necessities.  Gone are the storage boxes of worthless crap that we all seem to lug around from place to place.  In are bottles of water, boxes of memorabilia, receipts for the tax man, etc.  That’s where suitcases will be located, along with photo albums.  So that way if it happens again, everything is located in one place, and not spread out around the house, where we are wasting time trying to find things.  We were lucky on the evac order, because we had about two hours to gather our belongings.  Some people south of us, literally had about 10 minutes if that.  I’m learning the importance of saving up to buy a tow trailer for our truck so we can at least some amenities of home.  You have no idea how the little things weigh on your mind. Sleeping with your own pillow, or eating off your own cutlery or drinking out of your own glasses.  It’s the little things you miss and take for granted on a daily basis.  But the main thing is we survived, and we are stronger for it.  We know better now.  So we are thankful for this hard core learning lesson we needed to have.
Although, I can tell you this, our eyes are open and we are prepared now, if we ever have to evacuate our home again.  Until then, we are “Home Sweet Home”!
Dave Scott can be heard on Spaced Out Radio every Monday through Friday, starting at 9pm Pacific, 12am Eastern at www.spacedoutradio.com.  Follow Dave on Twitter @spacedoutradio and on Instagram @davescottSOR