Skip to content

Recent residents of Falkland shocked by wildfire evacuation order

Father from Chilliwack grateful for house insurance, also assistance from Shuswap Emergency Program

The Aug. 4 evacuation order to leave their home took two Falkland residents by surprise.

Just two months ago, Jim Caldwell bought a half-acre property in Falkland with a modular home on it and moved there from Chilliwack.

On Wednesday, Aug. 4, because the skies had been pretty clear the previous couple of days, he and his daughter Sorsha Woloshyn were shocked by the news to evacuate they received around 8:30 p.m.

“I think everybody around there was shocked. And getting out as fast as they could,” he said on the morning of Aug. 5, as he stood near the Prestige Harbourfont Resort in Salmon Arm. He and his daughter had just paid a visit to the Emergency Support Services reception centre there.

They were two of 1,200 people in Falkland on 580 properties which were included in the evacuation order issued by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.

Asked how they were feeling, Caldwell said he didn’t sleep the night before.

He and his daughter ended up sleeping in their cars in the Walmart parking lot in Salmon Arm because they didn’t realize the reception centre was open.

“We were excited for the hotel,” Woloshyn said, referring to a voucher they had just been given for a room at a different hotel for seven days. If they needed to extend their stay, they were to come back the day before their time ran out to request more. A voucher for food was also much appreciated.

Caldwell noted how grateful he is to have house insurance. The people living below their property in Falkland just moved in on the weekend, and they have none, he said.

“I feel sorry for them,” added Woloshyn sadly.

Rose Bleuer, one of the Falkland evacuees from the White Rock Lake wildfire, sits with her fully packed car on Aug. 5 outside Salmon Arm’s Prestige Harbourfront Resort, where the Emergency Support Services reception centre is located. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Rose Bleuer, one of the Falkland evacuees from the White Rock Lake wildfire, sits with her fully packed car on Aug. 5 outside Salmon Arm’s Prestige Harbourfront Resort, where the Emergency Support Services reception centre is located. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

Ruth Bleuer, who has lived in Falkland since 1999, was sitting near the Prestige in her full to overflowing compact car on Thursday morning, Aug. 5.

She said she’d had it packed for about three days, although she’d had to take a few belongings out and put them back from time to time.

Her impetus to get packed received a jolt when a member of the Cowichan fire department, part of the fire camp in the area, was going door-to-door assessing properties. He was explaining what could be done to protect property if a higher risk were to erupt.

“And then you realize, OK, this is serious. He’s telling me keep your yard watered, move wood stuff away, this and that. So that’s when I really went into overdrive.”

Bleuer is not new to evacuation orders and alerts.

Her first evacuation was in Pemberton in 1984, she said, when a volunteer firefighter knocked on her door and said, ‘You have 10 minutes, the river is coming.’

“I literally got diapers, a jar of peanut butter, a camp crib and left. And, seriously, it was 10 minutes.”

Bleuer also remembers the 2003 fires, when she was part of an evacuation alert. She has noticed how things have changed.

“The amount of information available as opposed to the 2003 fire, we’re night and day in a better place when it comes to public support.”

She said the Alertable app that notifies people of orders and alerts has been helpful, although not perfect.

Bleuer said Falkland residents have been told for some time that the White Rock Lake wildfire had potential to threaten.

“I’ve seen flames from town that did not put us on alert, but this one did. So all we can assume there is something going on that we can’t see, that we don’t know about. And it’s probably the weather conditions.”

Read more: UPDATE: North Okanagan highway closed due to wildfires

Read more: UPDATE: Okanagan Indian Band expands evacuation alert due to White Rock Lake wildfire

One confusing thing about Falkland, she said, is that it’s on the outer corner of three regional districts.

“We’re in CSRD but we know we’re door-to-door with TNRD and right below us is NORD. A lot of people who haven’t lived here for a while don’t know that and are looking at the notices, looking at maps, and they haven’t even figured out the roads yet. So sometimes when they put out notices, you can’t assume we all know this area. You have to put the road names, the geography, the lake, the town – people aren’t map experts. Or they’ll post something and I can’t make it out because the writing’s so small,” she said.

Along with the evacuation order from the White Rock Lake wildfire, an Aug. 4 extension of an evacuation alert covers 1,000 more properties, extending into Ranchero.

Bleuer noted that if a person lives in B.C., all of the nice places to live have risk, whether it be flood, fire or something else.

“My family has always been involved in the outdoors so we’ve always respected what nature can do.”

Read more: A look back at the biggest wildfires to burn across B.C.

Read more: Efforts underway to find lodging for Falkland residents under evacuation order
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
Read more