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'Bigger and better,' family plans to rebuild after wildfire takes their home

Last Updated Jul 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm EST

Nevaeh Porter, 8, is comforted by her grandmother Angie Thorne as they view the remains of their home that was destroyed by wildfire on the Ashcroft First Nation, near Ashcroft, B.C., late Sunday July 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

ASHCROFT, B.C. – Angie Thorne hugs her granddaughter as she looks for the first time at the blackened pit where her home of 21 years had stood just days earlier.

She and a caravan of friends and family drove up to the Ashcroft Indian Reserve on Sunday evening to see what remained after a wildfire engulfed the community in central British Columbia, just west of Kamloops.

“We made many memories here,” Thorne said, falling silent as tears streamed from behind her sunglasses.

She gestured to where she and her husband, Randy, celebrated their silver wedding anniversary the summer before, then pointed out the lopsided picnic table her sons built 15 years earlier, somehow untouched by the flames.

“Everybody complained about it and it’s still sitting there,” she said, letting out a laugh.

“You couldn’t get in or out of it. But they built it so we kept it, because that’s what we do, right?”

Most of the homes on the reserve were destroyed by the Ashcroft wildfire, one of hundreds still burning out of control across the province’s southern and central Interior.

More than 10,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes.

Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, predicted the number of evacuees would likely rise as gusty winds and hot conditions continue to fan the flames of more than 230 fires that have destroyed an area covering at least 320 square kilometres.

Thorne and her husband managed to escape Ashcroft with their camper trailer on Friday before watching flames burn down their home.

When they returned Sunday, Thorne held up a charred metal sign that used to hang near her front door that read: “Welcome to our home.”

“It all seems like my material stuff, but … everything that was in this home, we worked hard all our lives for. We didn’t have the newest or best stuff, but it was ours. It was our family’s,” she said.

“My granddaughter said on the way here, we were looking at the devastation coming down the valley, and she said all that matters is that we’re all safe,” she added. “Coming from an eight-year-old, we can learn from that.”

Thorne’s granddaughter Nevaeh Porter at one point let out a squeal: “Mittens!”

The family’s seven-month-old cat had survived the inferno, her blackened whiskers singed and curled from the heat.

“Bigger and better, eh babe?” Thorne said to her husband, surveying the damage.

He squeezed her shoulder: “We’ll rebuild.”

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