Some residents staying behind, despite evacuation order, in bid to save homes in the Alpine Valley

Not leaving despite order

Bob Manz isn’t about to leave his home in the Alpine Valley northwest of Kamloops.

The resident of Meadow Lake Road was one of many placed under an evacuation order last week due to the nearby Sparks Lake wildfire, which has been moving southeast in the direction of the subdivision.

Manz has decided to stay behind and watch over the property and his neighbour’s home, which is the house in which he grew up, the home his stepfather built.

It’s the sentimental feelings he has for the area and the belief in helping his neighbour, which his mother instilled in him as a teenager, that is keeping Manz in the area despite the evacuation order.

Manz is watching over six other homes at the requests of residents who have opted to leave, and keeps an eye on many other properties in the area, using his binoculars to watch for encroaching smoke. He has also been providing updates on the fire situation for at least one of his neighbours.

The 63-year-old has about 800 feet of hose line and two water pumps he purchased just before the extreme heat hit the province in late June.

Should the need arise, Manz will use them to water down his and his childhood home, but there’s not enough hose line to water down other properties, Manz noted, as houses are separated by acres.

Manz said a conservation officer urged him to leave, but he feels his home is safe.

“This is my home and I will help others, but I’m not leaving,” he said.

He said his parents built the home to withstand a fire — it has a tin roof with hardie board siding and is in the middle of the property, with no trees nearby.

“I am basically fireproof where I am right now,” he said, noting he can use the hoses to encircle his home with water, but knows he cannot guarantee against all possible fire penetration.

Manz said his stepfather, who lives in Westsyde, is worried about him, but, Manz said, given the hoses and the materials with which his father built the house, he doesn’t feel the necessity to vacate.

Strong enough winds could spread the flames faster that he can stop them, Manz said, but he does not think the Sparks Lake fire will reach the Alpine Valley, which has been socked in with smoke in recent days.

“I’m the eternal optimist,” he said. “I’m going to go out on a limb and say Meadow Road and this valley will not have a fire.”

Manz said he’s seen no flames from his location and the smoke comes and goes with the wind.

He said authorities have put colour-coded ribbons on each home to denote who won’t leave, who has left and who didn’t answer their door.

He said the heat dome made him realize he would need to keep up with irrigation work, which is why he purchased the hoses.

“And it just so happens a fire started, so I was ahead of the game by accident,” Manz said.

He said his neighbour’s home is surrounded by trees and the home would be destroyed if the fire reached it.

“I would really feel sad to watch his house, which used to be mine, go up in flames,” Manz said, noting his neighbour left and expressed concern his home could be lost to the fire.

As of July 20, the BC Wildfire Service reports there are 149 firefighters, 22 structure protection personnel, 11 helicopters and 49 pieces of heavy equipment working to contain the Sparks Lake fire, B.C.’s largest, current wildfire that has grown to 48,000 hectares.

The BCWS map of the fire shows it has almost burned past Red Lake, which is a few kilometres away from the Alpine Valley.

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