Wildfires’ impact on Teamsters

Teamster member Eric Maki, a driver for Arrow Transportation, was one of the people who lost everything in B.C.’s worst wildfire season.

He was on the road, hauling ore from Trail so his wife Patricia had to deal with the evacuation. There was no warning. She looked out the window and saw the smoke. She drove over the ridge and she could see the flames and the black smoke pumping into the sky and barreling down on her. She had just 15 minutes to pack a couple of suitcases of clothes and a few papers on the kitchen table. There was no time to rifle through files looking for passports and insurance policies. She drove from their home in Boston Flats to Cache Creek and as soon as she registered an announcement was made telling everyone to evacuate to Kamloops immediately, Maki said.

Maki said, “I was in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t reach my wife.” It took several hours to contact her and he had to wait to see her the following morning.

When they were finally allowed to return to their community, they were shocked at what they say. “It was all gone. It burned in an hour and a half.” The only thing left is a 16×7 foot fence. “There wasn’t a mark on it.” Four homes out of a community of 50 were spared but there are no services.

The hundreds of fires in the Interior began in April. The state of emergency was finally lifted in September. By that time, the fires had covered 11,700 square kilometers and $510 million was spent to fight them. Over 65,000 people were evacuated. Fires also raged this summer in Washington, Oregon, and California, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The B.C. Government warns that climate change will bring more frequent and severe droughts and heat waves, more intense precipitation but drier summers, and higher risk of wildfires.

Read more on Pg. 6 of Today’s Teamsters Fall 2017