The Young Lake wildfire has grown to 2,631 hectares in size Tuesday. (BC Wildfire Service).

The Young Lake wildfire has grown to 2,631 hectares in size Tuesday. (BC Wildfire Service).

70 Mile on alert as wildfires continue to burn

General store to remain open as long as possible to serve community, firefighters

The 70 Mile General Store plans to stay open as long as possible to serve firefighters and other responders who are battling three fires of note in the area, store manager Marilia Vieira said.

The 70 Mile House area is currently on evacuation alert due to the fast-moving Flat Lake wildfire. Other areas of the Bonaparte Plateau are also on alert or order, including Flat Lake and Green Lake North and parts of Lone Butte.

“We’re just running as usual,” Vieira said, adding the deli, gas station, liquor and other groceries are available. “The store will remain open to provide service to emergency responders. Once the fire gets too close, we’ll get out of here.”

The Flat Lake fire, estimated at 26,191 hectares Tuesday, is just one fire threatening the Bonaparte Plateau. The Chasm fire has led to 199 evacuation alerts, while evacuation orders have been issued to 56 properties near Young Lake, with an additional 231 properties on alert.

On Tuesday night, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District issued another evacuation order in the area for another seven properties due to the Sparks Lake wildfire.

Brittany McCausland, who lives in the 71 Mile subdivision behind the Sugar Shack, said she can hardly sleep at night. On Tuesday afternoon, she could see black plumes of smoke and was worried about “super windy” conditions making the fire worse.

“It’s pretty stressful,” said McCausland, who has three children.

“It’s just the actual waiting and watching and wondering. We were here in 2017 as well. My older ones are a little stressed out as it brings back a lot of memories.”

Mark McMillan, who lives on Stormy Road at 76 Mile, said the wildfires this summer are worse than in 2017 as they are a lot closer to his quarter section. He and his wife Kathy were ordered to evacuate last Wednesday, July 14, but have stayed.

“Every day is scary but today (Tuesday) was really scary. We could see flames over the trees in our backyard,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

McMillan said fire crews conducted a controlled burn to the south of the property and he was worried all day it would make the fire worse. He said they will stick it out like their neighbours the Cunninghams, who have worked hard to save their home from the wildfire.

“Since then it’s gone all around them,” he said. “They would have lost their place if they left.”

McMillan credits the firefighters who are out every day to start up the pumps for the sprinklers, placed on his house, shop, cabins and fences.

He’s hoping the fact they’re surrounded by meadows will help save the property.

He added he’s pleased they aren’t being forced to leave as they were in 2017, noting many people are choosing to stay as long as possible.

READ MORE: B.C. declares state of emergency over wildfire season, preparing for potential ‘mass evacuation’

“You’ve got to protect your assets,” he said.

Ken Leyland, who is in North Green Lake, said he and many of his neighbours are also staying at home despite evacuation orders but noted they are packed and ready to go if needed.

“Nobody is going to risk their lives if this fire gets serious,” he said. “We will sit and wait and see what happens.”

For McCausland, the alert is causing her uncertainty. She is not going to work in 100 Mile House because she wants to make sure she is home if an order comes down.

“It’s really hard because with an alert you don’t want to go anywhere or do anything in case something happens.”

Vieira said she will continue to drive to work as long as she can to provide service to the firefighters and surrounding community.

“As long as I can get to work I will continue,” she said. “We’re good for now.”

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