Sooke volunteer firefighter Manolo Serrano watched dark smoke clouds roar towards him as he headed deeper into the B.C. Interior with his crew.
Serrano left to the Interior two weeks ago and stayed to help for eight days. He met with Langford and Metchosin firefighters and drove through the night.
The crew arrived at Cache Creek at 4:45 a.m. on July 14 and caught a few hours of sleep on a gym floor.
At 7 a.m., they were sent to 150 Mile House, a community located about 15 minutes south of William’s Lake.
“When I first got the call I was excited to go and help people out,” said Serrano.
As Serrano approached the town, he drove past a long line of people leaving after being evacuated from their houses.
“I could see the look of worry on their faces as I drove by,” said Serrano. “Just wondering if they were going to lose their homes.”
When the crew arrived, the town was completely empty aside from a swarm of fire trucks going in every direction.
“It looked like the end of the world,” said Serrano. “We watched the smoke grow and move towards us, and eventually it was just dark.
“The whole area was smoked up. It would have been a beautiful day outside but you couldn’t see the sun.”
Serrano and his crew spent their days protecting structures by putting sprinklers around them and wetting them down if they caught fire. They would also put out small “hot spot” fires and help prevent the fire from entering town.
“It was really difficult because the town only had one hydrant and we had to pump it to get water out,” said Serrano. “The truck only fits 1,000 gallons of water in it and we would use it up in about three minutes, and then have to drive to the hydrant to fill it up again which could take us about 30 minutes depending on where we were.”
Serrano was on the night shift, working from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night, but still felt he could have done more to help.
“The whole thing was very structured for our safety which is good, but I would come back from a shift and still feel energized. I wish they would have let me do more while I was there but we had to stick with the tasks that we were given.”
He felt he hadn’t stayed long enough, and plans to return to the Interior again on Aug. 4.
“If this were to happen here, we are not ready. It would be devastating. We as firefighters will need to train more and get more organized in order to protect us against a situation like that. Those people were not ready either, and that’s why they need our help.”