FIRESTORM 2017: Rankins and fire department mobilize

The Morgan Creek Ranch north of Williams Lake was threatened by the Hawkes Creek fire July 7 and 8, but ultimately it was saved by the efforts of the Rankin family and the McLeese Lake Volunteer Fire Dept. Photo submittedThe Morgan Creek Ranch north of Williams Lake was threatened by the Hawkes Creek fire July 7 and 8, but ultimately it was saved by the efforts of the Rankin family and the McLeese Lake Volunteer Fire Dept. Photo submitted
The Morgan Creek Ranch north of Williams Lake was threatened by the Hawkes Creek fire July 7 and 8, but ultimately it was saved by the efforts of the Rankin family and the McLeese Lake Volunteer Fire Dept. Photo submittedThe Morgan Creek Ranch north of Williams Lake was threatened by the Hawkes Creek fire July 7 and 8, but ultimately it was saved by the efforts of the Rankin family and the McLeese Lake Volunteer Fire Dept. Photo submitted
FIRESTORM 2017: Rankins and fire department mobilize
FIRESTORM 2017: Rankins and fire department mobilize
FIRESTORM 2017: Rankins and fire department mobilize
FIRESTORM 2017: Rankins and fire department mobilize
FIRESTORM 2017: Rankins and fire department mobilize

With help from the McLeese Lake Volunteer Fire Department, a local ranching family saved their ranch and a BC Hydro substation from encroaching wildfires this summer.

“No fencing was lost, no crops were damaged and no cows were harmed,” Heather Rankin said from Morgan Creek Ranch. “That’s the miracle of the story. Our cows are up feeding today on the field that could have burned.”

Heather’s husband, Allan Rankin, along with brothers Dave and Robin, own the ranch which is located 30 kilometres north of Williams Lake on the east side of the Fraser River and was started by their parents in 1936.

On the afternoon of Friday, July 7, when multiple lightning strikes hit the Cariboo Chilcotin, Heather and Allan had just returned home from shopping in Williams Lake.

“My daughter Morgan sent me a text message,” Heather recalled. “She was driving through Wildwood and took pictures of the Airport and Wildwood fires. When she got home she looked across the highway toward the BC Hydro substation and saw two lightning strikes.”

When Heather and Allan looked outside they saw two huge plumes of smoke and flames, but Heather said at that point Allan did not think the fire would cross Hawkes Creek and come to their ranch.

“That night from the old ranch house where Morgan and her husband live, we watched three or four plumes of smoke. We could see CN Rail was out there watching the railway tracks too,” Heather said.

Their son Ian and his family were staying at the ranch because they’d just moved out of their home on Fox Mountain which they’d sold and were waiting to get into their new place at Rose Lake, which was evacuated earlier that day.

By early Saturday morning things had worsened.

A family crew began working to build a fire guard about 6:30 a.m. because if the fire did cross the creek they wanted to make sure it didn’t have any fuel.

Following a suggestion to do two widths of the cat blade they set to work. Using a big water tanker truck they also attacked the fire that way.

“We worked all day,” Heather recalled.

“My son and his wife and our nephew and his wife took turns through the night going down the steep embankment with watering cans and putting out spot fires as they saw them flare up.”

Meanwhile, the McLeese Lake Volunteer Fire Department was in the area monitoring fires Saturday morning and one of the members spotted fires in the gully by the Rankins’ field, said McLeese Lake first responder Torie Lee.

“We then called a team in to protect the fields so the fire wouldn’t spread to the tree line or the Rankins’ house or cross the highway,” Lee said.

Ten members of the department arrived, along with a fire truck and a local contractor who donated a tanker truck.

“We worked all day,” Lee said. “We were able to hold it to the edge of the hay field which allowed the Rankins to protect the substation. The Rankins were the real heroes.”

For the next week the Rankins monitored all the hot spots and although the fires did move to within half a mile of the substation, there was never any support from the BC Wildfire Service.

“There were planes flying over and I’d think ‘oh good they are going to help’ but they never dropped any water and we found out later they couldn’t,” Heather said. “They did not have the resources. They were fighting the airport fire, they were fighting the fires out of Ashcroft. As you know everywhere they were fighting fires. We felt neglected and scared.”

Talking with other ranchers, Heather said she feels that ranchers do have experience that should be used when there are wildfires.

Heather said her family emerged from the experience with a positive attitude because it brought them together.

“Besides the fact there were scary days, I think the scariest day was when we watched as the fires close to Williams Lake burned. I think we were pretty lucky.”

Allan said he did not agree with the ways the wildfires were handled.

“The ones that were successful were the ones that lived around the area that really put up the fight,” he added.

Just Posted

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Crews work to repair Horsefly Road east of Williams Lake . (Ministry of Transportation video)
MoTI activates district operations centre, response to flood damaged roads in Cariboo region

Engineers, experts being pulled from across the province to help

RCMP officers on scene Friday, May 14 off Bond Lake Road on the outskirts of Williams Lake. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Update: Williams Lake RCMP arrest one suspect after firearms incident near Bond Lake Road

Given the severity, suspect is being held in custody for a court appearance

An official naming ceremony for the Nekw7usem Bridge connecting the RC Cotton Trail to Scout Island will take place Monday, May 17 at noon. (Patrick Davies file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
City, WLFN hosting naming ceremony for Nekw7usem Bridge in Williams Lake

The pedestrian bridge connects the RC Cotton Trail to Scout Island

Patricia Froberg (from left), Pat Mitchell and Dorothy Ouellette enjoy lunch prepared by members of the Old Age Pensioners Organization for St. Patrick’s Day Wednesday afternoon. Today, May 14, the Old Age Pensioners Organization Branch 93 and the Seniors Activity Centre are hosting an Old Fashioned Drive In lunch with car hop service at the SAC parking lot from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Old Fashioned Drive In Lunch on menu at seniors centre today, May 14

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., swing on by the SAC parking lot for an Old Fashioned Drive In lunch

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

Most Read