Shrouded in thick smoke, cowboys on horseback slowly moved a herd of cattle east of Hanceville Wednesday, trying to get them out of harm’s way as wildfires continue to ravage the Chilcotin.
“We thought this was a safe spot,” said Mike Jasper, as he and other cowboys from neighbouring ranches moved a small herd of cattle, blackened and weary looking, from the Lee’s Corner area toward Riske Creek.
“But I don’t know — there’s fires on both sides of us.”
Al Madley of neighbouring Canyon Ranch worked traffic control for the group on Highway 20 as air support from the BC Wildfire Service tried to slow a fire close by along the highway in Riske Creek.
Madley said many of the cowboys from area ranches are working together to help one another. Yesterday, they had found 120 head and were still out looking for another 120 that were missing.
Barbed wire fences were cut and gates were opened during the intense fire in the Hanceville area Friday night in an effort to give the cattle a chance to save themselves while local racnhers and loggers were fighting to save their own homes from the blaze as well.
Several ranches are not out from under the threat of wildfires yet, as the Hanceville blaze continues to grow and move into the Fletcher Lake area.
Madley confirmed ranchers in the Chilcotin are staying inside areas where evacuation orders are in place to protect their ranches and save their cattle.
“When you have that much livestock, that’s your whole life,” Madley said. “You don’t just leave.”
Since the fires broke out Friday, ranchers were essentially on their own to deal with the crisis as other fires broke out across the province, spreading resources thin.