When the residents of Rock Creek – a small town in British Columbia just north of the Canadian-U.S. border – awoke to smoke on August 13, 2015, they quickly realized that danger was approaching. Fed by westerly winds, the Rock Creek fire spread from the west side of town to the east side, and then to surrounding communities. In total, it took just 45 minutes for the fire to make its way through the Rock Creek community, passing over Highway 33 and the Kettle River before heading northeast.
Visitors staying at Kettle River Provincial Park’s campground, located in Rock Creek, were forced to flee their campsites on foot and head toward the river. Area livestock were turned loose by their owners in hopes they would head for safer ground. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, the bulk of the damage could be found a stone’s throw away from the center of Rock Creek. An estimated 4,500 hectares were ravaged.
Crews from Allteck – a utility contractor headquartered in Langley, British Columbia – were alerted to respond several hours after the fire passed through Rock Creek. One of the main feeder lines, KET1, had been destroyed, leaving residents without services. Telecommunications and radio towers also were disrupted, leaving few options for communications. Most residents and visitors affected by the fire had been transported to the local community of Midway, southeast of Rock Creek, where shelters had been established and the BC Wildfire Service had set up their central response. The fire was still burning to the northeast, with prevailing winds from the southwest. After consultation with FortisBC, the local utility, it was decided that power restoration would soon commence, although it would prove to be a challenge: Highway 33 – which provided access to the restoration area – was blocked by the authorities, and local fire crews continued to battle flare-ups in the area with helicopter support in the nearby hills.