Kyle Gryte has no qualms about circumventing a police line to help a friend in the fire-ravaged Monte Lake area.
“You’re doing a not-allowed thing, but for a good cause,” Gryte told Kamloops This Week.
The Lower Mainland resident is part of a group sending supplies to longtime friend Rob Bouchard, who stayed behind, after losing his own home, assisting fellow residents fighting spot fires threatening property still standing after the White Rock Lake fire roared through the rural community southeast of Kamloops.
Their efforts, however, are in contravention of an evacuation order in place for the Monte Lake area. A portion of Highway 97 between Kamloops and Vernon that runs through Monte Lake also remained closed as of Tuesday, according to DriveBC, due to the wildfire.
Gryte said there is a police exclusion zone in the area, but he and a few others who know Bouchard have been able to ship in supplies.
“There’s a few ways to get in and out around the police roadblock and we’re getting together stuff to keep them going and keep them safe,” Gryte said.
On Tuesday, he told KTW, an excavator on a flatbed truck, as well as much-requested handheld radios and water totes, were being delivered to Bouchard, to whom Gryte speaks with on the phone several times per day, despite spotty cellphone reception in the fire-razed area.
“There’s a lot of supplies between totes and radios and equipment and food, hose and pumps — there’s a lot of stuff that’s moving around right now,” Gryte said.
He said the group of Bouchard’s friends are spread between the Lower Mainland and Kelowna, organizing supplies, which are then shuttled to people in Kamloops, from where the supplies are trucked into Monte Lake.
“There’s eight or nine of us that are all working together,” Gryte said, adding they started organizing supplies on Friday, the day after Bouchard’s home burned.
Gryte said he’s been a point man from the Lower Mainland and, while he hasn’t yet breached the Monte Lake evacuation zone himself, he plans to this weekend with a group of friends intent on helping out for a few days.
There has been criticism from B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth that residents who defied evacuation orders on Friday placed the lives of themselves and firefighters at risk. Meanwhile, sentiment from residents expressed to various media outlets has been that they are there protecting what they have, along with criticism that the wildfire was actioned too late.
Gryte said he felt Farnworth’s criticism of people staying behind was “quite disrespectful.”
Asked what compelled him to raise funds and undertake the shuttling of supplies for his friend, Gryte said he wants to help people in need during situations outside of their control.
He said Bouchard, who he considers a close friend, would do the same for him.
Gryte said all supplies sent into the area have made it to Bouchard and others without issue and he isn’t aware of any run-ins with police or fire officials.
Asked what he thinks will happen if he’s caught trying to access the evacuation area with supplies, Gryte said he believes that would be a tough call for those tasked with stopping him.
“Are they going to arrest people and send you away when you are trying to help people out? I don’t know,” he said.
Gryte said Bouchard put it best during a recent interview.
“He said, ‘What are you going to do, fine me, take my house away? It’s literally a pile of ash,’” Gryte said, noting residents who remain in Monte Lake are simply trying to save what they have left.
Gryte said Bouchard’s wife and children are staying with family in Chilliwack while he remains in Monte Lake with a number of other residents fighting the spot fires.
They are based out of a neighbour’s home Bouchard helped save shortly after his own home was lost to the flames.
Gryte has also set up a GoFundMe account to help the Bouchard family rebuild.
That campaign has, as of Wednesday afternoon, has raised more than $67,000.