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iN VIDEO: Some in Kamloops started leaving before wildfire evacuation order came down

The Juniper wildfire in Kamloops spread quickly during a lightning storm on the night of July 2, 2021.
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July 02, 2021 - 11:14 AM

News of a nearby wildfire almost spread faster in Kamloops than the flames as residents in Valleyview and Barnhartvale began preemptive evacuations.

"We had to play the cautious card. Which was, 'If we don't need to be home, why are we putting ourselves in that position?'" Kim Annis said, who lives in Barnhartvale.

As the Juniper wildfire burned within Kamloops near the Kamloops Bike Ranch, Annis said it was mere kilometres of brush and trees from his home. After a dry June and in the midst of an unprecedented heat wave, he wasn't taking any chances.

Annis was camping at Duffy Lake when he'd heard the news. He promptly left with his family to their home to grab some essentials, leaving their camper trailer at the camp site. They headed to his parents house away from the wildfire.

"It was scary. We just grabbed most important things and left. I told our neighbours that we are overreacting but you look at Lytton, it took merely half an hour for the wildfire to spread into town," Annis said.

Before even arriving in Barnhartvale, Annis and his family watched lightning strike Mount Paul, sparking a fire above Sun Rivers and further instilling their fears. At 9:58 p.m., Annis called 9-1-1 to report the lightning strike, but after sitting on hold for 15 minutes, he hung up. There was over half-an-hour between dialling the emergency line receiving a return call from dispatchers.

"When I got home they told me they'd already received calls about it, but the lightning compounded some concerns for us," he said.

The evacuation order for Juniper residents was rescinded around 8:30 a.m. today, July 2, after being reinstated around 1 a.m.

In Valleyview, Nathan McKay and Tori Elter had just moved into their new basement suite on July 1. After a day of moving and all of their things in boxes, they were getting ready for bed when McKay saw the news of the fire.

"I was pretty defeated because I'd spent all day moving, we just had pizza and I didn't want to do anything," McKay said. "I'm not sure how far away it was, maybe five kilometres. We could just see the glow and lots of smoke."

McKay and Elter saw their neighbours chatting outside, one of whom was not concerned, but many were packing up and leaving. Roads were packed with vehicles.

But the most motivating factors for them was the photos and videos circulating social media.

So they grabbed clothes, already packed in garbage bags due to the move, took their mountain bikes and headed to McKay's parents house in Pineview.

"I don't know what happens if their place burns down. I don't think I've ever recalled it being high thirties for a week and just destructive thunderstorms to follow," he said.

The wildfire remains under control and none of the at-risk properties were damage in the wildfire, according to a media release from the City of Kamloops.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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