ASHCROFT, B.C. – Angie Thorne hugged her granddaughter as she looked for the first time at the blackened pit where her home of 21 years had stood just days earlier.
She and a caravan of friends and family drove up to the Ashcroft Indian Reserve on Sunday to see what remained after a wildfire engulfed the community in central British Columbia, just west of Kamloops.
“We made many memories here,” Thorne said, falling silent as tears streamed from behind her sunglasses.
She gestured to where she and her husband celebrated their silver wedding anniversary the summer before, then pointed out the lopsided picnic table her sons built 15 years earlier, somehow untouched by the flames.
“Everybody complained about it and it’s still sitting there,” she said, letting out a laugh.
“You couldn’t get in or out of it. But they built it so we kept it, because that’s what we do, right?”
Most of the homes on the reserve were destroyed by the Ashcroft wildfire, one of the hundreds still burning out of control across the province’s southern and central Interior.
More than 7,000 people had been ordered to evacuate by Sunday evening, and emergency officials predicted that number would likely rise as gusty winds and hot, dry conditions continue to fan the flames of more than 220 fires that have destroyed an area covering at least 230 square kilometres.
Late Sunday, an evacuation order was issued for 100 Mile House, home to more than 1,500 people.
Back at Thorne’s property in Ashcroft, her granddaughter at one point let out a squeal: “Mittens!”
The family’s seven-month-old cat had survived, her blackened whiskers singed and curled from the heat.
“Bigger and better, eh babe?” Thorne said to her husband, surveilling the damage.
He squeezed her shoulder: “We’ll rebuild.”