(Diane Dunaway/Facebook)

(Diane Dunaway/Facebook)

Ranchers stay behind to protect their homes from raging wildfires

A look at why those told to leave during an emergency decide to stay inside the evacuation zone

From their acreage at Soda Creek, Diane and Dave Dunaway have seen two nearby train derailments, lightning fires, grass fires and serious wildfires across the river – but not once did they evacuate their home.

The current wildfire situation, which has led to a state of emergency across the province, has been no different.

In a recent post on social media, Diane explained that the decision to stay is not one made on a whim, but backed by decades of sustainability and resilience that one must have in order to live on rural and remote properties. It’s simply called “country living,” she said.

RELATED: Skeleton city crew in Williams Lake keeping things going

“We’ve lived here for 26 plus years without fire protection, garbage or recycling pick-up, fibre optics, pizza delivery, nor reliable cell service,” Diane said. “Living in a somewhat remote location necessitates independence, self-reliance, and a sense of accountability.”

Even three years ago, when a raging wildfire came right up to their fence line, and burned 122 hectares over months of time, the pair remained put on the property in the community they’ve lived in for 26 years.

Diane and Dave’s decision to forego evacuating this and defend their property isn’t an uncommon decision in the Cariboo.

In fact, most ranchers in the area have stayed behind to protect their livelihood – a move that’s brought controversy and criticism.

RELATED: Riske Creek ranchers go it alone in fight against dangerous wildfire

The Dunaways and other neighbours – a minimum 2.5 km drive away – aren’t standing by passively and watching the fires, though.

“Neighbours have pieced together a comprehensive collection of fire fighting equipment from hoses, backpack tanks, and shovels to backhoes and truck-mounted tanks with high-powered pumps,” Diane said.

“We have an informal valley-wide spark watch in effect that includes calling our other neighbours across the river if we spot something they might not see coming from the hills above.”

Their preparedness includes plans for the worst-case scanrio and for the long haul – but also have emergency bags by the door if things become unsafe.

“Nearby Dunlevy Ranch has limitless gravity-fed irrigation water that doesn’t need electricity to gather pressure,” she said. “Our fallback plan is to park in the middle of a hay field and surround ourselves with sprinklers. And of course there’s the river.”

RELATED: Ranchers and volunteer fire departments fight wildfire north of Williams Lake

With a self-sustaining farm still running in full force – with a garden, honey bees and all – as well as freezers with generators and fuel for back up, Diane has one simple request: respect their decision to stay.

“We are not ‘defying’ evacuation orders; we are using our collective years of experience along with cooperation to survive. There’s nothing cavalier about our decision to stay home,” she said.

“In our estimation, at this time we feel safe and don’t feel that we’re endangering anyone.”

According to the BC Cattlemen’s Association, government agencies have taken a second look at working with the ranchers who remain on their properties.

The RCMP have not made any arrests of those who remained in evacuation zones. Legally, there’s nothing stopping those older than 18 from staying.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nate Brown photo
Okanagan-Shuswap says goodbye sunshine, hello winter

Temperatures are forecasted to drop by mid-next week

The facility in Summerland has 112 long-term care beds. Interior Health funds 75 of the beds. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Six more months for temporary Summerland Seniors Village adminstrator

The temporary administrator was appointed following site visits and concerns from Interior Health

Penticton’s 7-Eleven is closed due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19, the company announced Jan. 15, 2021. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton 7-Eleven closed after employee tests positive for COVID-19

The store will re-open “on or before” Jan. 23

Real estate sales in the South Okanagan grew by more than any other part of the province in 2020. (Marissa Tiel - Black Press)
South Okanagan fastest growing real estate market in B.C.

There was over $1 billion in residential sales in 2020

Maggie Fowler, left, and Gabby Friesen of the Keremeos branch of the Royal Canadian Legion receiving monies from the federal government under the Veterans Organizations Emergency Support Fund. (Submitted)
Keremeos Royal Canadian Legion branch receives federal support

The funds are part of $20 million in support to veterans’ organizations across Canada

Brett Forsythe battles it out in a game of singles pickleball on ice at Okanagan Training Rink Thursday, Jan. 7 in support of the Vernon Food Bank. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Pickleball play hits the ice in Okanagan

Rivals battle it out in support of the food bank

RCMP on scene at a home on Sylvania Cres. (Phil McLachlan /Capital News/FILE)
Two Kelowna men arrested after Rutland home invasion

Two Kelowna men, including a prolific offender, facing slew of potential charges

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

RCMP pictured at a motor vehicle incident during snowy conditions. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media/FILE)
Vehicle found abandoned after fleeing Kelowna RCMP, avoiding spike belt

Police believed at the time vehicle was tied to alleged shooting in West Kelowna

West Kelowna RCMP are investigating reports of gunfire in the 1700-block of Ross Road. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating reports of gunfire

West Kelowna RCMP said the incident occurred on Jan. 14

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government announces creation of B.C.’s first anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

With a second case of COVID-19 confirmed at South Canoe Elementary, parents were advised Thursday, Jan. 14, that the school could be closed for a week or so. (Contributed)
Closure considered after four cases of COVID-19 identified at Salmon Arm school

South Canoe Elementary principal grateful for concern and support shown by public

Deb White, carnival chairwoman, rode in on style Saturday during the parade. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Pandemic postpones parade, heart of Vernon Winter Carnival

Interior Health says no to one of B.C.’s only winter parades

A 2002 F350 was stolen from a Whitevale home sometime overnight Jan. 14. (Contributed)
Truck stolen in North Okanagan overnight

Lifted Ford stolen from Whitevale Road

Most Read