Mom phoned last night as she was evacuating from Williams Lake.
“I’m a refugee!” she shouted and then wondered at the fool who was trying to merge in front of her, but wasn’t actually merging. “What are you waiting for!”
She, along with everyone North of Williams Lake and everyone West of Williams Lake was barreling down the highway at the breakneck speed of three kilometers and hour. All roads South converged at “The Y,” which is shorthand for the junction of Highways 97 and 20, on a steep hill in Williams Lake. All traffic running away from the fires had to go through this needle.
It was Rush Hour in the evacuation.
My mother sounded stressed, but mostly she sounded excited. Leave it to her to embrace the situation. The time of stress, worry, all of that was over. They were now in the middle of it, and they were ready. They had packed blankets, clothes, food and water, because they had no idea how long they had to drive.
It must have been a long night. They had to follow an Oregon Train of literally thousands of vehicles as it snakede past the 150 Mile fire, past the 108 Mile fire, past the Little Fort fire to safety and the Yellowhead Highway, 200 kilometres away.
Last night I went to bed, thinking, it’s probably gonna take them four hours to get there. I was wrong. It took them seven, with no gas stations or a single rest stop available.
When they got to Little Fort, everyone turned right, heading Kamloops. They were the only ones who turned left, going North while the traffic came South from Clearwater, under its own evac alert.
“No one stopped us,” she said, a little bit of awe in her voice. They kept driving North, while the sane British Columbians headed South and away from the fires.
This morning, she called from Blue River, where the smoke was so thick she couldn’t see the mountain slopes on the other side of the road. They caught two hours of sleep and now they’re heading to Edmonton, to their own little refugee camp at Marie’s, and there they will stay until they begin to smell like fish, before moving on to the next refugee camp in Rossland, then finally the one here in Coquitlam.