South Cariboo resorts near the Deka Lake wildfire are emptying out, as tourists and owners opt for safety while crews battle the blaze.
Russ Wardell, owner of Moose Haven Resort on Hathaway Lake said he decided to ask all guests to pack up and head home yesterday, after he got a first-hand look at the 300-hectare Deka fire.
“It was heading right for Mahood Lake Road, with a wall of flames,” Wardell, whose resort has been on evacuation alert since Thursday, said. “The last thing we need is a whole bunch of RVs trying to get out, so we asked everybody to pack up and leave so they’d have plenty of time to do so, instead of in an emergency situation.”
Wardell said he would be closely monitoring the crews’ progress on the fire, which is listed as a “wildfire of note,” with the hopes he could reopen within a day or two.
Also on evacuation alert for the past few days is Sulphurous Lake Resort, where co-owner Sheila Nyman said she has “pretty much lost all our reservations.”
Nyman said she has been reaching out to those who have spots booked at her resort and filling them in on the situation, and most have been opting to cancel their stay. She said the majority of her guests who were on site when the evacuation alert was put in place decided to leave on their own accord.
“This is just another thing on top of COVID that’s going to impact the business in a negative financial way,” Nyman said.
She said she was surprised at the lack of information coming from officials since the wildfire started. With the exception of one brief visit from the RCMP on Friday, she hasn’t had any updates directly from official channels.
“Being a resort, we could potentially have a lot of people here, so I thought there would be more information,” she said. “The information I’m getting is coming more from our neighbours, or I’m digging through the internet for it.”
Another resort in the evacuation alert zone, Hathaway Lake Resort, posted on its social media page Saturday that it would be closing and evacuating their property.
Wardell – who has owned Moose Haven since 2016 and experienced months of being on alert during the 2017 wildfires, said he is disappointed the province hasn’t declared a state of emergency yet to address the current fire season.
“The government needs to get their hands out of their back ends and set a state of emergency so we can get some funding assistance,” he said. “We were closed for the first five weeks of our season, and now we’ve got this to deal with. All we’re doing is bleeding money.”
The Deka Lake fire has been burning since Wednesday evening following an intense lightning storm in the South Cariboo. It is one of nearly three dozen fires that has started in the South Cariboo over the past several days. It is listed as 300 hectares in size as of Sunday morning and has forced the evacuation of close to 700 properties in the area. Another 14 properties on Judson Road are also on evacuation order.