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Former Prince George resident flees Okanagan wildfire

Pauline Morrison had time to gather her most prized possessions before evacuation order took effect

Former Prince George resident Pauline Morrison of West Kelowna is among the 25,000 British Columbians forced out of her home as a result of wildfires.

When the McDougall Creek fire erupted on a sweltering and windy Okanagan day last Thursday, Morrison and her neighbours in the Shannon Woods subdivision had a half-day warning to get out. The authorities came to her door Thursday afternoon with an evacuation order and by Friday morning she was pulling out of her driveway with her three dogs in her loaded pickup truck.

“It was so eerie, at three in the morning (the night before they evacuated) there were like 10 neighbours from up the street in their pajamas all staring up at the sky watching the bright red flames coming, because in the day it was just the smoke. It was really scary. It was pretty darn close and they got a handle on it really quickly.”

After a week of couch-surfing at her sister’s and daughter’s houses in Kelowna, the 58-year-old Morrison is feeling the pain of uncertainty, not knowing if and when she can return to her home at the base of Carrot Mountain. For now at least, she knows it is still standing. She and her neighbours have been posting photos on a Facebook site taken from remote surveillance cameras on their properties and so far the fire has been held back.

“I’ve got a door cam but it only looks straight out so I can see the street but I can’t see the house on the other side,” said Morrison. “I can see firemen going up and down so I know they’re protecting the houses there and I just hope when I get back it’s not a big mess.

Morrison watched from her daughter Maggie’s house in Kelowna while houses on the ridge overlooking the lake burned to the ground.      

“I purposely bought this house (17 years ago) because it was at the end , surrounded by trees, it was private, but it’s been so hot and they’re worried about that particular area where I am,” said Morrison. “ It’s so dry and there’s a lot of trees.

“All the people on that side were watching and the next thing you know an ember reached over to Kelowna and they were on fire,” said Morrison. “Those were the people who had no notice to evacuate. It was an apocalypse, it was really terrifying.”