Evacuees camping in parking lot

Grant Sopp has been camped out in a tent at the College of New Caledonia with his wife Katie and their dog for a week now and he's not expecting to go back home to Williams Lake anytime soon.

Especially now that the Cariboo city has been evacuated. A wildfire north of Williams Lake jumped Highway 97 when the wind picked up Saturday and all 11,000 residents were ordered to leave.

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Among the more than 8,000 Cariboo residents now in Prince George who left after the wildfires were touched off by a dry lightning storm July 6-7, Sopp misses the comforts of his home and going with his dog for long walks in the woods in areas now threatened by flames.

"I don't mind camping, but this screws up your routine bigtime," he said.

Sopp says he's been well looked after at the emergency social services centre at CNC. The centre provides evacuees three home-cooked meals per day, he's got vouchers for groceries, hot showers in the college and Prince George residents have dropped by with coffee and donuts and have given him biscuits for his red healer-cross dog Braizee.

He's part of a small community of Williams Lake residents who have put down temporary roots in the west parking lot of the college campus and he says there one thing he's especially craving that would add to the comfort of his unplanned camping trip.

"It sure would be nice to have a fire," said Sopp, 30, knowing B.C. is under a state of emergency and open fires are banned provincewide. "I went to the Aquatic Centre today with a couple of buddies for two hours and it was so good to jump into the hot tub and have no stress. Everything we need access to here is within walking distance, it's awesome."

Their tent is set up under a tree, which offers some shelter from the elements, but they haven't had any real need for tarps. In a week, they've only had one soaking rain shower.

"I've been talking to my auntie, she's fighting the Wildwood fire right now and last I heard they're just trying to set up containment lines by doing burnoffs in front of the fire and as fast as it's contained it's going the other way," said Katie Sopp.

The fire put Sopp's accounting/business technology studies on hold the past week, but she learned Saturday she can go online in the CNC library to get back to her courses.

Sandra Gery, 20, and her one-year-old son Arlo suffer from asthma and left Williams Lake when the smoke started getting thick on Tuesday.

Gery comes by regularly to visit with the Sopps, and Katie has a standing offer to babysit to allow Gery to go to the pub or get her fingernails done. They've been issued wristbands, which allow them entrance to the CNC dining room and entitle them to food and gas vouchers and restaurant discounts.

"We're from Williams Lake and we're out of our home and no one is able to work right now," said Gery.

"My son has really bad asthma and was turning blue from smoke. The fire is right behind our house, just up the hill, that's the fire that was coming from by the airport, it's close to downtown. The fire at the airport and the one near 150 Mile House are both really bad."

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