Rose Raphael woke up this morning, July 30, to the sound of a knock on the door. It was 4 a.m.
“I ran down in all my glory with my nightie and opened my door and said hello.”
A policeman was standing on the other side of the door.
“He was explaining we had to get out, not now but right now.”
Raphael lives in 70 Mile House. On July 29, shortly before midnight, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District expanded an evacuation order to 70 House and through Green Lake due to the expansion of the Elephant Hill fire. RCMP members, among others, were sent door to door to hand the notice out.
“My house faces south and we could see the the smoke,” she says. “It was the most awful colours, there was oranges and black oranges and you’re looking around and thinking, ‘Oh crap.’”
Raphael lives with her son, Earnest, and while the duo had been packed and ready to go for a week, the evacuation order still came as a surprise.
“I just stared at him like he was a mirage and if I blink my eyes enough me and Toto are gonna go to the Wizard of Oz. It goes through your head so fast and he was such a nice young man and he told me what he needed to tell me and I said ‘okay then’ and Earnest and I got dressed and ready to go.”
In the parking lot of the South Cariboo Recreation Centre in 100 Mile House several hours later Raphael jokes about the evacuation, but it’s clear the experience was unsettling.
“It’s amazing how unnerving it is. You feel powerless.”
Raphael opened the door for her nine cats and left a large container of food and water set up for the animals. Then, she and her son left.
When she arrived at the centre, Emergency Social Services and the Red Cross were set up to assist evacuees.
“Once we met with the people in the centre there, they were welcoming and kind,” she says.
Raphael met with her family at the recreation centre; some were evacuated with others in the community overnight, and some had only just returned to 100 Mile House after being evacuated barely weeks before.
Parts of the family, including a dog and three turtles, were headed north to Quesnel to visit more family.
Raphael and some of the others were planning on staying in 100 Mile House with another son.
“I am going to make him look after me,” laughs Raphael. “He’s going to wait on me hand and foot.”
Raphael is trying to make the best of the situation.
“Whatever will be will be. You can’t kill yourself and stay awake at night because the next day you’re not at your best and it’s nobody else’s fault if I want to be a crabby old bag,” she says.
“I’m just really grateful for the men and women who are working so hard for our benefit. I’m just really proud of them.”
Still, Raphael says, she just wants to go home.
“I don’t want to play this game anymore.”