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B.C. wildfires: Some residents refuse to evacuate lakefront community only accessible by boat

Boats are the only means of escaping a small lakefront community in B.C.’s Shuswap that’s being threatened by the raging East Adams Lake wildfire – but a handful of residents are testing their luck and staying home, despite an evacuation order issued late Wednesday.

The 2,527-hectare wildfire poses an “immediate danger to life, health and property” on the lower-east side of Adams Lake, according to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s evacuation order, which applies to 92 homes along Rawson Road in Electoral Area F.

Tracy Hughes, public information officer for the CSRD, said most residents and visitors had already left by Thursday morning, but that a few refused to vacate their properties, even though there are limited options available should they need to flee the area.

“This is very much a seasonal and recreational community, so there is no road access that can take you in or out,” Hughes said.

“Anybody who needs to come into the area needs to go through the Adams Lake ferry or take their own personal watercraft.”

Officials said the cable ferry can transport around 10 vehicles, depending on their size, or 48 foot passengers. Crossing the lake takes around six minutes.

It’s unclear how many people were staying along Rawson Road when the evacuation order was issued. An evacuation alert had been in effect since July 20, and officials believe some residents had already packed up and left voluntarily.

Should any of the remaining residents decide to leave – possibly to pick up groceries or fill up on gas – Hughes said they will not be allowed to return to the community.

“It is their right to decide to stay in their own home,” she said. “They do have to stay on their own property. If they try to leave the area for any purpose … they will no longer be let back in.”

The RCMP will be doing boat patrols on Adams Lake to ensure no one attempts to access the evacuated area, including potential looters.

Officials also urged anyone planning to visit Adams Lake for recreational purposes to avoid boating, as helicopters and aerial skimmers will be bucketing water in their efforts to keep the flames from consuming any homes.

Any boats on the lake could hamper the firefighting effort, Hughes said.

“We understand it’s coming into a long weekend, it’s a lovely lake, people might like to be out there – but maybe make a different choice,” Hughes added. “Go to a different lake. Right now, we really need that resource to fight the fire.”

On Thursday, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District issued another evacuation alert for 12 properties on the other side of Adams Lake due to the Bush Creek East wildfire. Those residents have been asked to ready themselves to leave on short notice. 

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