Evacuated Parker Cove couple still waiting to return home – and that’s OK | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Evacuated Parker Cove couple still waiting to return home – and that’s OK

Lisa and Rob Burns have been evacuated from their Parker Cove home for more than a month and don't yet know when they will be able to return.
Image Credit: Submitted/Rob Burns
September 03, 2021 - 9:55 AM

Lisa and Rob Burns know they’re among the lucky ones.

Even though it’s been a month since they were ordered out of their Parker Cove home on the west side of Okanagan Lake because of the White Rock Lake wildfire, they know their home is still standing.

But because that home is on Okanagan Indian Band land, they weren’t among the hundreds of nearby residents who were allowed to return home yesterday, Sept. 2. They’re OK with that.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Most evacuees on westside of Okanagan Lake can return home

“We are guests living on OKIB lands and, until they have things set up for their members and their members are returning to a safe home, I don’t expect them to spend a lot of time thinking about me,” Lisa said.

The Burns’ custom designed their home and had it built four years ago and now live there full-time. For 18 months, Rob worked at the Little Kingdom gas bar and store that was destroyed by fire.

“That was a blow,” Lisa said. “I know the deep hurt people are feeling. Our hearts go out to them.”

READ MORE: Okanagan Indian Band working on recovery plan after homes, business destroyed by wildfire

They are now living in a hotel in Victoria, waiting to find out when they can return home.

They had been on evacuation alert for some time before being forced to leave, so they did have time to pack up, make sure they had everything they needed for their two dogs and extra medication for Lisa, who has health and mobility issues.

“I was getting quite unwell with the smoke so he (Rob) was watching really closely and, because I have mobility issues, he didn’t want to be having to get us out in a panic,” Lisa said. “So, the morning of the first (of August), I poured my first cup of coffee and he looked at me and said, honey do you think you can be ready to go in a couple of hours? I was like, do I have time to do a load of laundry? He said yes and, by 11 o’clock ,we were on the road.”

As they reached a relative’s home in Abbotsford she was getting texts from neighbours saying the evacuation order had been issued.

“I’ve never been so relieved in my whole life that my husband doesn’t leave anything to chance,” Lisa said.

They went on to Victoria where a friend had booked a hotel for the. Because of Lisa’s health, they didn’t want to keep relocating during their evacuation.

While they had time to pack up, there are still things they left behind that they treasure.

“I have a drawing of my youngest daughter and one of Rob and I that was done by a dear friend’s child and those got left behind and they’re not replaceable,” Lisa said. “Christmas decorations and things you collected since your kids were little that you planned on giving to them when they had own houses and own Christmas trees.”

It was just little, irreplaceable things that got left behind.

“It was always, so long as he and I and our two dogs are out and safe – that was all we really cared about,” Lisa said. “Everything else is replaceable or, at least, you mourn that it’s gone.”

Like all evacuees, there were some very stressful times, like Aug. 5 when the fire roared down Whiteman Creek, which runs next to their house. Then there was Aug. 15 when 78 homes were destroyed in Estamont and Killiney Beach.

READ MORE: Fire tore into Killiney Beach at 80 metres a minute

“There were a few nights that we got good a drunk thinking it’s going tonight, only to get up in the morning and saying I can’t believe it, they saved it,” Rob said.

The biggest concern for other evacuees they’ve been in contact with is the lack of information, although they say they’ve fared better because the Okanagan Indian Band was posting updates three times a day. The Central Okanagan emergency operations centre had twice daily updates.

“For a lot of people it’s hard,” Lisa said. “We’ve certainly seen the range of emotions from everybody really shell shocked and coming together and really supporting one another to anger and frustration and bewilderment, then the grieving process with the homes that were lost then, again, anger.

“That’s where information – even if they could say to us, ‘best case scenario’ or ‘based on past fires of this size’... People just want to know when they can go home and saying when it’s safe, is just not cutting it for a lot of people.”

“Kudos to the firefighters,” Rob said. “Those guys have busted their butts. But, I’m disappointed in politicians big time. We really haven’t heard a word from any of them. I think everyone’s disappointed in that and especially the firefighters. These guys are probably short on resources and short staffed and they’re fighting a beast of a fire.”

READ MORE: 'Anything that could be and would be saved, was saved:' North Westside fire chief says

They had high praise for the people in Victoria who have shown such support.

“The night I fell apart at the dinner table in the restaurant and started crying and explained to the lady that I was worried my house was going to burn down, it wasn’t like I was divorcing my husband,” Lisa said. “Right away, the restaurant jumps in and says, we’ve got your bill.”

The hotel staff have assured them they have a room for as long as they need it and the insurance company has come through for them, even checking in if they don’t hear anything from the Burns’ for a few days.

They’re fine with living in the hotel for a while longer but still have the worry about what they will find when they finally do get home.

“One problem we know from people who have security cameras on their homes is that the area is full of bears, cougars, and other wildlife,” Rob said.

And they don’t know if their newly purchased side of beef and locally sourced chickens have survived in their freezer.

But, they know they’re some of the lucky evacuees compared to those who lost their entire homes or suffered severe damage, especially their Okanagan Indian Band neighbours.

“There’s probably going to be world of hurt in there because some of their houses aren’t in as good condition (because of fire damage) as Parker Cove houses are,” Rob said. “They’re the ones I worry about most. They don’t’ have so much.”

The Okanagan Indian Band’s Facebook page shows that evacuation orders have been rescinded on the east side of Okanagan Lake but not yet on the west side.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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