Andrew Loring had no idea what was behind him as he drove home with groceries from Lytton on June 30.
He would later learn the fire that destroyed the village was right behind him as he travelled toward his home in the Gladwin Mobile Home Park on the outskirts of the Fraser Canyon village.
Exactly one week later, the husband and father of two could be found outside the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Powwow Arbour, where he has been gathering supplies since being displaced by the life-altering blaze.
Tk’emlups has an emergency reception centre and services at its powwow grounds and surrounding buildings off Highway 5 for all wildfire evacuees. Some people are staying overnight, either in tents underneath bleachers just outside the arbour or in bedding set up in the stands.
According to Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir, 40 cots have been set up within the Sk’elep School of Excellence gymnasium for overnight guests who don’t wish to sleep outside.
Meanwhile, a donation centre at then adjacent Moccasin Square Gardens is filled with items, including mounds of clothing and shoes, as well as canned goods and other food.
Loring said he and his family have been visiting the emergency reception centre on the reserve almost every day, grabbing meals, water or clothing. When his family was part of the evacuation of the Lytton area, there wasn’t much time to pack.
The family has been living in various hotels in Kamloops for the past week, but Loring, an electrician by trade, said the company he works for will be getting them more permanent lodging in a condo while they await word on when they can return home, which he hopes to be in August.
He said he has been coming by the Tk’emlups reception centre because he is familiar with the area, having lived perviously at the Silver Sage trailer park on the reserve.
Loring has been back to Lytton numerous times, however, as he’s helping to restore power to a nearby band’s water service with the installation of backup generators.
He’s also been back to check on his home.
“I kind of lucked out because my place didn’t get hit,” Loring said.
His mother and stepfather, however, live in Lytton, and did lose their home to the flames. On the day of the fire, Loring’s mother came by his house in a panic, urging them all to evacuate.
“She was just out of her mind,” he said.
Once on the road in Merritt, and within cell service range, Loring said they learned almost all of Lytton had burned down.
They carried on to Kamloops where, they’ve been since.
Loring, who works at a power plant in Lillooet, recalled seeing a friend outside the Lytton grocery store at about 4:30 p.m. on the day of the fire, which is believed to have started in the village and not part of a wildfire.
After exchanging pleasantries, Loring drove away and noticed his friend’s eyes widen as she looked down the street behind him. Loring said he didn’t think much of it at the time, but his friend has since told him she was staring at a tree bursting into flames, unbeknownst to him as he drove away.
Loring said his daughters, who are 14 and 11 years old, were frightened when they had to evacuate, but added they are holding up well.
“They’re troopers, they’re doing pretty good, but it’s affected them,” Loring said.
The family, however, got another scare that first night in Kamloops when, after fleeing the Lytton fire, another lightning-caused blaze was sparked in Juniper Ridge, across the river from Tk’emlups. Loring said his daughters had never seen so much lightning and the family was concerned they would need to again be part of an evacuation.
That fire was brought under control thanks to firefighting efforts and some well-timed rain.