(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

Students from SD62 stepped up to help members in the community with the annual 10,000 Tonight food drive. This year’s organizers had to adapt during the campaign as COIVD-19 public health orders changed. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore students step up to make sure community members don’t go without

Students of SD62 are this year’s recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award

A cat died in this house fire in Sidney afternoon. The fire started on the house’s deck and spread from that point. Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the permanent presence of crews at the Community Safety Building prevented worse damage. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Firth)
Sidney house fire kills cat, causes extensive damage

Official says fire started on deck and damage to the house could have been worse

Millstream Village is welcoming a new Marshalls location March 9. (Photo courtesy GWL Realty Advisors)
New Marshalls store in Langford brings boost to women in need

Retailer will hold opening ceremony in Millstream Village March 9

Abstract Developments is donating $75,000 to support community programming at The Cridge Centre for the Family. (Courtesy of The Cridge Centre)
Victoria developer builds support for community programs

Abstract Developments donates $75,000 to The Cridge Centre for the Family

SD 62 (Sooke) has announced a COVID-19 exposure at David Cameron Elementary in Colwood. Potential exposure dates are Monday, Feb. 22; Tuesday, Feb. 23; and Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Black Press Media File).
COVID-19 exposure at Colwood’s David Cameron Elementary

Potential exposure dates are Monday, Feb. 22; Tuesday, Feb. 23; and Wednesday, Feb. 24.

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read