In 26 years of volunteering and working on fires in the Okanagan, Dave Lusted had never seen a fire like the Keremeos Creek Wildfire.
Lusted was one of many volunteers who rallied together to help protect the Cedar Creek Ranch and other properties overnight between Aug. 3 and 4 outside of Olalla.
Mainly he was helping to load up and transport water for the water bladders being used by the firefighters that night, and he was out until 2:30 a.m. before he finally had to pull back home to Cawston to rest.
“Not as fancy as the fire department, but when a forest fire is coming towards buildings, every little bit helps,” said Lusted.
Lusted had helped out with fires for over two decades, including the Garnet Fire in 1996, and had equipment from his logging company providing assistance on every major fire in 2003.
In all that time, he had not encountered anything like the Keremeos Creek wildfire.
“The only thing I could say that was really unbelievable was the fire at Cedar Creek,” said Lusted. “It came down five kilometres in less than two hours that night, and a normal fire doesn’t travel downhill at a rapid rate of speed.
“The sound was as if you were on the tarmac at the Vancouver Airport and let a 767 land on you, that’s what the sound of the fire was like.”
Other volunteers, including Lusted’s son, stayed on longer until the morning hours, while others were forced to leave as the fire drew closer.
“I was asked to ask people to leave and let the firefighters help out instead, and people were really good,” said Lusted. “We had lots and lots of swirl, the little mini tornadoes that spit sparks every damn place and they go all over the place.”
If there is another flare up, Lusted will be ready to ride back up and help out again. He has plenty of equipment in Olalla that he is ready to tap, but he is hoping that he won’t have to use it.
“I hate to say this, because usually if you say something you live to regret it, but I’ll say it anyways; I think Olalla is in really good hands,” said Lusted.
The community remains under evacuation order as of Tuesday afternoon, and Highway 3A through the community is also closed as firefighters continue to work in the region.
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