BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. Wildfires: Kelowna Senior Volunteers To Fight Fire Threatening His Home

07/21/2015 08:24 EDT | Updated 07/21/2016 05:59 EDT
When the evacuation order came to leave their West Kelowna home, Isabel and Sal Pilato were ready. She packed their pills and valuables, Sal put on his firefighting gear.

Sal Pilato, 68, has been a volunteer firefighter for 12 years and every year, Isabel tells him it's time to let someone else do the job. 

"A volunteer fire department is there for its community," she said from the evacuation centre in West Kelowna after she and her neighbours were forced to flee the wildfire raging on Westside Road.

"These are our neighbours. You do what you have to do and there's not a lot of young ones out there."

Pilato said she hopes her husband and all the other firefighters battling the 100 new wildfires that have started over the last 24 hours, are safe. 

Volunteer firefighter husband battling fire

Sal PIlato was at fire practice when the alarm sounded. 

"He called me. He said, 'Isabel, it's starting to crown. It's coming down the hill. Get some stuff together.'" 

At that point, the fire was burning to the top-most layers of foliage and jumping from tree to tree. 

"So I packed pills, passports, identifications, computer because your life is on it and a few things," said Pilato. She quickly called her neighbours to tell them it was time to get out. 

Just as they were heading up the hill from their homes, the RCMP were coming down to tell them to evacuate, she said. 

"For me the hardest part is knowing that my husband's on the fire. We're not young."

'All hands on deck'

In the past, volunteer firemen like Sal were tasked primarily with defending people's homes, not with battling the fire ont he mountainside. 

"But last night, it was all hands on deck," she said. "Last night's wind was--it was insane. It was in every different direction at the same time."

Even if she lost her home, PIlato said she knows it's a possibility. But as long as no lives are lost, that's what matters.

"He's protecting my house and my neighbours' houses," she said. "And it has to be done."

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