Richter Mountain wildfire: ‘It was like Armageddon with the wind’

Melissa Genberg was hopeful on Thursday. By Friday morning, she was thankful.

The Richter Mountain wildfire exploded in size overnight, growing to the point where area ranchers were forced to battle the blaze in a combined effort.

On Thursday, BC Wildfire Service listed the blaze at 60 hectares in size. Genberg, who operates a 150-acre hay ranch called KG Industries, said at one point the fire was much, much larger than that.

“It’s been kind of smouldering at the top of the mountain for the last couple of days,” Genberg said of the wildfire, located approximately 14 kilometres south of Cawston and burning adjacent to Highway 3. “Fire crews hit it hard [Thursday]. It looked awesome, it was almost out.

“And then about 11 p.m., my husband and I got up to check it, and at that point it had already come down three-quarters the way down [the mountain] to the highway.

“And then from there on, it covered an entire mountainside within two hours.”

Genberg said the ranch was prepared for the blaze, with fire hoses and the ranch’s half-dozen night-shift employees ready to go.

Genberg added they contacted two nearby ranches “and they call came. One brought their water truck and then we started fighting it on our own.”

She said they battled the blaze until approximately 4:30 a.m., which is when BC Wildfire Service swooped in.

“At that point, the fire was moving so quickly, it was kind of past our particular danger zone,” Genberg said. “So we were pretty lucky that it moved that quick and the winds worked in our favour.

“If the winds would have shifted, we would have been in big trouble, because the debris coming across the road was just unbelievable. It was like Armageddon with the wind.”

The fire, which is believed to be lightning-caused, sparked to life on Wednesday. It quickly grew to 25 hectares that day, then to 60 hectares by Thursday.

It was listed as out of control on Friday, the same rating it had Thursday.

BC Wildfire Service said 41 firefighters battled the blaze on Thursday, and that 20 stayed on scene overnight. There was also air support, as planes dropped retardant on the fire.

The fire also caused a temporary closure of Highway 3.

More to come…

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