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West Chilcotin lodge owners escape to lake barge as wildfire approaches

‘We are praying as the lastest news is the fire is only one mile away’: Jennifer Toland
An airtanker drops retardant at Eliguk Lake Lodge Tuesday, July 11, as the Gatcho Lake Fire has moved closer to the property. (Eliguk Lake Lodge video image capture)

Owners of a wilderness lodge in the West Chilcotin are packing food and escaping to a barge on a lake because the Gatcho Lake fire has moved much closer to them.

On Monday, July 10, Eliguk Lake Lodge owners Jennifer and Arön Toland said the Gatcho Complex Fire was about 10 km west of them and they were very worried.

“We weren’t even on evacuation alert,” Jennifer said through Facebook messenger Tuesday afternoon. ”Now we are praying as the latest news is the fire’s only about a mile away.”

An airtanker dropped retardant on their property Tuesday afternoon and they were very grateful, she noted.

“Hopefully our resort is still here in the morning. It is going to be a long stressful night.”

Tuesday after the Tolands called the fire centre earlier in the afternoon a helicopter was sent to investigate, said Forest Tower, a fire information officer with the Prince George Fire Centre stationed in Vanderhoof.

The helicopter stayed there to provide support while an airtanker arrived to drop the retardant.

From what the crew could tell when it flew over and mapped the Gatcho Lake Fire at 800 hectares Tuesday, part of the Gatcho Complex Fire had moved toward the lodge, but not the entire complex fire.

“It is a 250-ha. fire that has approached the lodge and as we don’t have ground crews on it they were using the retardant as a structure protection tactic,” Tower said.

Because it would take 22 hours to drive ground crews from Vanderhoof, Tower said they are working with the Cariboo Fire Centre (CFC) to see if crews from the CFC could resource the fire.

“It would be much quicker to get in from the Williams Lake side and underneath it. We do have someone hopefully going in to look at the fire again tonight or first thing tomorrow.”

The Cariboo Regional District issued an evacuation order for 10 parcels due to the Gatcho Complex Fire on Sunday, July 9. The order covers an area of 24,055 hectares.

READ MORE: West Chilcotin wilderness lodge owners eye Gatcho Complex Fire 10 km away

READ MORE: EVACUATION ORDER: Cariboo Chilcotin’s Gatcho Lake area impacting 10 parcels

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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