BY BILL PHILLIPS
Being evacuated because of a wildfire is starting to get old for Kelly Aitken.
It’s been just over a year since the Williams Lake resident’s husband was forced out of Fort McMurray because of the fires there. Now she and her family are riding out the city evacuation at West Lake.
My husband was working outside of Fort McMurray last year,” she said. “The fire was four kilometres away and they were put on alert. Two hours later had to evacuate and go south.”
It was a tense time for Kelly who was in Williams Lake watching television footage of people driving through the Fort McMurray inferno but unable to contact her husband, who was out of cell range for several hours.
While her husband had to deal with the traffic involved in an evacuation, Kelly beat the exodus out of the lakecity.
She and her two kids were already in Prince George when the evacuation order was given Saturday night. They were here for a baseball tournament and couldn’t get back home.
That meant she and her family were left with what they brought with them for the ball tournament … basically couple of changes of clothes.
“We couldn’t get back to get our passports or birth certificates,” she said.
They were camping at West Lake and when the evacuation order was made, stayed with friends for a couple of days. They are now back out at West Lake.
“Everyone we know has been evacuated. We’re tenting it. That’s OK. I like my space,” she said with a laugh. “We’re kind of in survival mode. The help and the love and generosity, even before being evacuated, has been great.”
Staying at West Lake has been good for her children, as well, as they have friends and family there who they can play with.
“It’s a good little group in West Lake,” she said.
They’ve been passing their time in Prince George doing a little bit of shopping and taking some of the activities, like the circus and the Forget the Fire event in Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park. And they’ve just hit some playgounds.
She says it is hard on her family who keep asking when they can go home. And there is the fear that they might not have a home to go to … in more ways than one. There is the possibility of fire, of course, but the Aitkens were in the middle of purchasing a new house in Williams Lake when the fires hit.
“We were supposed to take possession last Thursday,” she said.
Luckily, they know the people they are purchasing the house from and they have agree to and extension.
“I try to think positive about it,” she said.
On top of all that, her husband has been finishing up some schooling and had to fly to Kamloops, as the roads were closed, to finish up some testing.
Aitken, who grew up in Prince George, has been overwhelmed by the support she and other evacuees have received here.
“It’s mind blowing how much support we’ve had,” she said, adding stores often gives discounts right away when they find out she’s an evacuee. “Everyone’s been very welcoming. I can’t say enough how great everyone’s been. Haven’t had any issues.”
For now, camping at West Lake is fine and she’s keeping her fingers crossed that fire crews can keep the fire from marching down the Williams Lake River Valley and into town.
“I can’t wait wait to get home.”