There are some people made for life in isolation, and at least four of them can be found in the enigmatic area known as “the Precipice.”
Located an hour and a half by logging road from Anahim Lake, the area is everything a remote “Valley of Eden” could ever hope to be. Old growth forest, towering mountains, and crystal clear streams encircle lush farmland and meadows: it’s truly a spectacular place.
There are currently two active homesteads in the valley and they have remained so throughout the fire season that began July 7 and has stretched out the entire summer.
While better contained, the Precipice fire still shows no sign of disappearing any time soon. It currently sits at over 4000 hectares and is being managed out of the Anahim Lake Fire Camp. The camp is staffed with 268 workers and runs like a miniature town complete with laundry, hot showers, and a cafeteria to feed its hungry inhabitants.
CCRD Chair Alison Sayers was on hand to meet with residents, making the trip from Bella Coola to greet her constituents at the outermost reaches of the regional district’s boundaries.
At the front lines of the firefight live Monika and Fred Reid, who have made their home in the area since 2008. In addition to their massive garden, they keep two milk cows, chickens, and have a large greenhouse to support them through the winter. They hay their own fields and are largely self-sufficient except for some staple items such as coffee and sugar. Their homestead is solar powered and they live in the Precipice year round.
“When we first spotted the fire we were terrified, absolutely terrified,” Monika shared. “Since then we have learned more about fire behavior, we understand that helicopters do not put out fires, that it has to burn, and we feel ok now.”
Despite the evacuation order, both Fred and Monika chose to stay and defend their home. They have not regretted it, even when speaking of one particular day when things took a turn for the worst.
“It was August 3 and the fire was raging under a huge column of black smoke. It came within 75 meters of the greenhouse, and that afternoon the fire crew packed out all their gear with helicopters and evacuated,” she recalls. “We were offered a ride out with the last helicopter, but we did not go. They were very relieved to hear from us the next day!”
At the height of the fire there were nine helicopters in the area, an unprecedented event for the tiny community.
“We have felt so well cared for and protected during this entire experience,” said Monika. “All of the firefighting crews have been amazing, they have always kept us informed and treated us so well.”
Lee and Pat Taylor have been residents in the Precipice for over 35 years. Situated about two kilometres from their neighbours Monika and Fred, they are still as independent as they day they arrived.
“You don’t expect a lot of help when you live way out here,” said Pat. “When you get it, it brings tears to your eyes.”
The Taylor’s have owned their land in the Precipice since 1974 and raised two daughters on their farm. They are deeply attached to everything about the place and it shows. Their handcrafted log home sits beside the original one-room cabin and is surrounded by spectacular wilderness and mountain views.
Despite the fires smoldering and puffing all around them they carry on harvesting their garden, cutting their hay, and helping the fire crews in any way they can.
“I can’t say enough good things about the firefighting crews,” said Pat. “We have been very fortunate.”
Sayers was impressed with the resiliency and the resolve of the residents, and was very pleased to have made the trip.
“The independence, self-reliance, and depth of character these folks obviously possess is a real indicator of how challenging and rewarding a remote and self-sufficient life can be in a place like the Precipice,” she said. “I was very honoured to be able to listen to the experiences of the residents of this remote and unique part of our regional district. It was a real privilege to be invited into their homes and learn a little bit about their lives and how they have been impacted by the wildfire this summer.”