By Angela Hill

Even as they waited to hear if they could return home, BC wildfire evacuees Diane and Everett Lightfoot remained optimistic.

“We got each other and that’s the main thing,” Diane said, while her husband grinned fondly at her, during their meeting with the Canadian Red Cross at the 100 Mile House re-entry centre.

The evacuation order for 100 Mile House and surrounding area was lifted July 22, but it remained in place for their side of the highway. It was days later before the Lightfoots could sleep in their own bed.
When they were finally given the greenlight, the drive down the gravel road from the highway, past smoking hotspots in fields and the firefighters still fighting to get everything out, made the couple worry about what would be waiting for them.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Diane said.

It was made worse when they saw the archway and sign that announced their ranch was gone. There were burned sections scarring the ranch land and just behind a layer of still green trees, were tall, black burned out trees, reminders of how close the fire came.

However, the house was untouched by flames.

“You see where the fire came and where the wind took it away in so many spots,” Diane said, about how lucky they are feeling.

The Lightfoot’s lost a mobile home that acted as housing for ranch hands, and several pieces of equipment, but some of their neighbours lost everything, she said.

Sitting in their kitchen, just over 24 hours after arriving home, the Lightfoots surrounded by their seven dogs and a cat, recalled the day they evacuated.

“We kind of expected it, but not as quickly as it happened,” Diane said.

Everett Lightfoot walks with his cleanup kitThat afternoon they watched aircraft going back and forth with water to battle the blaze. Towards the evening the situation grew worse. The fire arrived in the forest surrounding the area.

“All I remember, as you look back there, is flames shooting in the sky, probably 70 feet high, all those trees were candling. It was coming right for us.”

An official in a truck came down the long driveway with a siren on.

“And he told us, ‘to get out, now!’”

So with their seven dogs, and the cat, Diane climbed into their bright blue jeep, with Everett following with the truck and trailer. They were taken in by friends just south of 100 Mile House, where they set up in the driveway.

“We’ve been really lucky to have good friends … I honestly didn’t know where we would have ended up if he didn’t step up,” Diane said.

“There were a lot of us,” she said factoring in the animals. “What a friend, what a good friend.”

She celebrated her 60th birthday evacuated.

Diane and Everett meet with a Red Cross volunteerEven though they couldn’t go home, the Lightfoots wanted to thank the people protecting them. It was during a Gatorade delivery to emergency services workers they learned they could go home.

“So, we just turned right back around and started coming down the road.”

It didn’t stop there. The first thing they did after getting home was take food and drinks to the firefighters who saved their house.

Then it was about the remaining dust and smoke.

“The smell of smoke in the house is overwhelming, the first day we were allowed back here, I cleaned the bedroom, like I washed the walls, I washed the floor and … it just stinks, it just stinks,” Diane said.

 “I did this yesterday,” she said wiping her finger along the top of a cupboard and showing the fine ash.
“But that’s okay, it’s temporary.

“I am so glad to be home and I’m glad we are all safe.”