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Hikers credit helicopter tour company with saving them from raging B.C. wildfire

The skies were clear on Monday morning when Sage Randle and her two friends set out to hike Mt. Bruce in southeastern B.C.

After stopping for photos and lunch at the peak, they spotted a small plume of smoke on the side of the mountain they had just hiked up.

“Within 10 minutes, it was huge and it was obviously a fire,” said Randle. “The feeling was definitely disbelief. Like, how is this happening right now?”

Relieved she had a cell signal, Randle called local search and rescue, but worried they could not come fast enough to get her and her friends away from the fire, which was quickly moving up the mountain.

That’s when a chopper from Glacier Helicopters Invermere suddenly appeared in the distance. The private tour company has been contracted by the Southeast Fire Centre to help out during the unprecedented wildfire season.

“We were out actively looking at different forest fires, and we saw that fire start to come up out of nowhere really, because we had flown by there half an hour before and there was no smoke,” said Greg Flowitt with Glacier Helicopters. “And so immediately we just thought, OK, we have to look for any people up there, because we never know where people are on the mountain.”

Flowitt, who was born and raised in Invermere and knows the area well, flew past the parking lot and saw a single vehicle. He knew which trail the hikers would have been on, and found them on the summit of Mt. Bruce.

“You could see them with their arms waving rapidly, and they definitely made it easy to spot them, which is good,” said Flowitt, who immediately motioned for the hikers to hop aboard the chopper.

“They just said we need to get the heck out of here, and we flew away right away,” said Randle.

The pilot told her she had a very short window if she wanted to get her car out of the fire zone. So the hikers were dropped off at the parking lot, and Randle drove away quickly, while the helicopter hovered above to ensure they made it out okay.

The hikers were stunned to see how large the fire was, and how quickly it had moved down the mountainside.

“It felt nice having them above us, knowing we had a way out if the fire did spread quicker than we were hoping it would,” Randle said, adding she isn’t sure what her group would have done if the helicopter didn’t save them from the summit.

“I think the only thing we could have done is run away from the fire, which unfortunately would have been the back of the mountain,” she said. “A customer who is a regular at the store I work in works on the fire crew here, and they said, like, you could have died. Or been seriously injured, or gotten lost. And those are all very true things.”

Randle and her friends are grateful for the quick-thinking helicopter pilot who thought to check the Mt. Bruce parking lot when the fire first started.

“I have reached out to them on Instagram and we will be bringing them beer and chocolate and treats, because we owe them our lives. I am so thankful to those guys. They literally came out of nowhere and saved us,“ said Randle.

Flowitt was quick to point out there was no sign of fire when the hikers set out, and they did everything right by staying on the summit and calling for help.

“A few people asked did the hikers light the fire. No. The trail isn’t near where the fire started,” said Flowitt. “These guys had a massive fire within minutes. They figure up to 70 hectares.”

He insists he was just doing his job, and is looking forward to chatting with the hikers about the hectic rescue. “I invited them to come in and say hi, I will give them a sticker for their water bottle,” Flowitt said. “It will be a memory that they keep with them for sure.” Top Stories

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