If the water bombers had arrived a few minutes later Rose Terbasket fears she would be homeless now.
“They came just in the nick of time. The fire was moving fast towards the house,” she said.
She and her son Justin Terbasket noticed smoke up the mountain behind their home on Blind Creek Reservation part of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band around 1:30 p.m.
It took less than hour for the fire to come roaring down the mountainside where the Fairview Cawston Road comes down from Oliver.
“The sound was so loud. The sage brush and the grass just went up and the wind was pushing it. The noise was very loud,” Rose said.
Rose and Justin and some neighbouring family members worked to try and save their property.
Rose pulled out a sprinkler and tried to put it near the home while Justin along with others tried to get the horses out of the path of the fire.
“Every time they’d get them headed out something would come and spook them back. I thought they weren’t going to go but they did and headed east.”
The fire took the feedlot for the horses and a hay house building on the property.
As the fire came closer to the house Rose chose to evacuate while her son Justin stayed to fight off the fire.
“They told me I didn’t have to be here, but it’s my home,” Justin said.
The Keremeos Fire Department arrived on scene quickly taking up a variety of jobs from fire suppression to working the perimeter of the fire and evacuating residents.
The water bombers arrived when the fire was about 20 metres from the Terbasket’s home.
Red retardant coats the top of the house, the driveway and several vehicles.
“We want to thank the water bombers and the Keremeos Fire Department. Without them we don’t know what would have happened. Our lives could have been ruined,” Justin said while taking a break from power washing the retardant off.
Close to 120 hectares were burned in the fire. More than 50 firefighters from BC Wildfire Service and the Keremeos Fire Department worked on the fire.
At this point the cause of the fire has not been released but Justin Terbasket said he and other family members saw a vehicle with Quebec licence plates in the area at the time the fire broke out.
Cpl. Brian Evans of the Keremeos RCMP detachment confirmed police talked to the people in the vehicle shortly after emergency crews responded.
“People who were in the area have been identified and spoken to. It’s under investigation by the natural resource officers and their looking at the cause. Nothing has been released and no charges have been laid,” he said.
The fire travelled behind orchards and vineyards west along Lowe Drive.
Elam Wills a longtime organics farmer in the area and a former BC Wildfire Service firefighter rushed to help neighbouring orchardists.
“There’s actually a lot you can do to stop the fire from spreading,” he said. “We stamped out the fire and used shovels. At one point I got my chainsaw and cut down a tree that was on fire so that it wouldn’t fall into the orchard. We just wanted to stop it from getting to the orchard and having more fuel,” he said.
About 15 people worked to save the orchard across the street from Elam’s and other’s worked in neighbouring vineyards and orchards.
Jordy Bosscha, chief of the Keremeos fire department said there was a huge turnout of local firefighters to the scene.
“We had a great turnout of firefighters to this fire. Twenty-four came out and we worked until 11 p.m. Tuesday night on the fire,” Jordy Bosscha, chief of the Keremeos fire department said.
He reminded people that while an active fire is underway that it’s best to stay out of the area and out of the way.
“If there’s a fire please don’t come to the area because you do really hinder us. We might be filling up with water and you’re in the way and it all slows things down,” he said.
“With grass and sagebrush things move really fast,” he said.