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North Shuswap firefighter unwavering after losing home, fire hall to wildfire

‘This is my neighbourhood’: CSRD firefighter Darren Reynolds recounts harrowing afternoon
Scotch Creek/Lee Creek firefighter Darren Reynolds looks over the remains of his North Shuswap home that was destroyed Friday, Aug. 18, by the Bush Creek East wildfire. (CSRD image)

Despite losing his home and fire hall to the Bush Creek East wildfire, Darren Reynolds and fellow North Shuswap firefighters continue doing the work that needs to be done to protect their communities.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) recently shared Reynolds’ harrowing account of late Friday afternoon, Aug. 18, when strong winds pushed the out-of-control wildfire into North Shuswap communities including Scotch Creek. A member of the CSRD’s Scotch Creek/Lee Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Reynolds explained in a video shared by the CSRD that he and fellow firefighters were at the wooden Scotch Creek bridge, helping to remove danger trees. With the “fire all around us,” they fell back to the fire hall. That was just before “all hell broke loose.”

At the fire hall, Reynolds said the plan was to regroup, get hoses back together and then get to work on spot fires. This was with the knowledge his home had already been lost to the blaze – something he learned from his son Nathan and Nathan’s partner Savannah, who are also Scotch Creek/Leek Creek firefighters.

“I knew we had lost our property because he was just down that street. He watched it happen.”

The wind died down, offering a 30-second lull before it picked up again, “and chunks of stuff were flying out of the sky on fire, and the trees were just sideways, the embers were incredible … we couldn’t breathe or nothing (sic), trees were candling right beside us, our hall was on fire, we watched the trailer court just get ripped apart, just explode,” said Reynolds.

It was then they headed to the beach, “because we thought we were going to die, simple as that.”

Once on the beach, they were transported by lake to safety. Three days later, Reynolds returned to his fire-ravaged North Shuswap community and has been there since, even though his home was flattened in the blaze.

Read more: BC Hydro mobilizing crews to restore power in the Shuswap

Read more: Skwlāx chief recounts wildfire escape: ‘The fire people were not going to be denied’

“If you’ve seen my property, it was moving so fast, it just turned everything to dust basically,” said Reynolds. “I’ve never seen anything like that but now I can honestly say I have and I don’t think I want to again.”

In a CSRD media release accompanying the video, Reynolds points out like himself, other North Shuswap firefighters have lost their homes and are “still going hard.”

“This is my neighbourhood. I don’t have another neighbourhood. And nobody should have to go through this. It’s pretty ugly…,” said Reynolds, noting the selfless actions of firefighters helped people to escape the blaze.

“People don’t understand that. They think they should all come first. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way…,” said Reynolds. “If I didn’t think the way I do, I would have said ‘to hell with the bridge’ and I would have went (sic) and protected my house. Instead, I don’t know how many thousands of people we got out of here.”
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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