The Elephant Hill fire broke out near Ashcroft on July 6, 2017, and was the largest in B.C. during the record-breaking wildfire season that year. It burned nearly 1,920 square kilometres of land, ravaging the Ashcroft, Boston Flats, Loon Lake and Green Lake areas of the B.C. Interior.
Approximately three-quarters of the Bonaparte Indian Band territory was impacted by the fire, with a burn area 75 kilometres wide in places.
That day, William had driven into town with his mother when he noticed the smoke on the hills around noontime.
“Mom was in a panic, saying, ‘let’s get home, let’s get home before they shut the roads off!’ So, we came home, and it was starting to burn up on the hills as we were coming back from Cache Creek. Up on those hills, you could see it burning. It was rolling along,” recalls William.
“Within a minute, the whole fire was just creeping up the mountain. Then, all of a sudden, it just takes right off. By the time we got down to Bonaparte, it had just come over the hill. That whole country was on fire. You could see flames at the top of the hill, way up in the air.”
After dropping his mother off at home, William had picked up his brother and driven back towards Cache Creek to fight the fire that by now was at the main Bonaparte reserve. He recalls people coming out of their homes to help with whatever equipment they had, spraying down the sagebrush and grass, and building fire guards to protect homes.
By the time the Cache Creek fire department showed up, William says the land was covered in smoke and confusion. Smoke so thick he could hear the BC Wildfire helicopters but not see them.