(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

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions, centre, and councillor Deb Haggard speak with Graham Hughes and others at a protest in front of the Port Alberni Shelter (Our Home on Eighth). Hughes and supporters have been at the shelter since Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BC Housing agrees to review of Port Alberni shelter

City’s mayor, shelter’s executive director welcome news of independent review

Port Alberni RCMP have told protesters at a tent city in front of the Port Alberni Shelter (Our Home on Eighth) to take down their tents and leave the area. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Shelter protest organizer arrested, released in Port Alberni

Supporters told to take down tent city or face arrest, protesters say

The City of Port Alberni and Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District are working on Housing Needs Reports and are seeking public feedback. (SUSAN QUINN / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
City of Port Alberni, ACRD release housing survey

Survey open to Alberni Valley residents until Nov. 16

In this photo illustration, a provincial election mail-in ballot sealed in an Elections B.C. return envelope is seen before being deposited in a Canada Post mailbox, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The final result of British Columbia’s provincial election won’t be known for at least two weeks because more than 700-thousand mail-in ballots have to be counted by hand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Mail-in ballots flowing into electoral offices

More than 4,000 received for Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding so far

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions, centre, and councillor Deb Haggard speak with Graham Hughes and others at a protest in front of the Port Alberni Shelter (Our Home on Eighth). Hughes and supporters have been at the shelter since Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
City of Port Alberni calls for investigation into shelter allegations

Former provincial election candidate organized protest in front of PA Shelter

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Most Read