A HISTORICAL SUMMER

A Reminder to Always be Prepared

The summer of 2017 will never be forgotten in British Columbia.

In some ways, it all seems so long ago … like a dream … yet at the same time, it seems so very real and vivid as fires continue to burn in many areas while in other locations, individuals and communities begin to pick up the pieces, repair the damages and move forward with a strong sense of gratitude and a stronger sense of community than ever before.

 

It was such a short time ago that many of us were participating in celebrations for Canada 150, July 1st,2017. Within just a few days of these festivities, the British Columbia Wildfires began the ravaging of our lands; first, leaving behind destruction from the Elephant Hill fire in the Ashcroft and Cache Creek areas while fiercely continuing on throughout the Cariboo-Chilcotin corridor.

 

Despite my extreme vision impairment, I saw the first plume of smoke of the Gustafsen Lake fire from my deck; it was July 6th. It started about 5 miles west of 100 Mile House and within 24 hours, evacuation alerts and orders were underway while the new Premiere of BC immediately declared a State of Emergency. Within 48 hours, the surrounding areas and the town of 100 Mile House were evacuated followed by Williams Lake, Clinton and several other rural communities over the next few and recent weeks.

 

I am so grateful to report that I was one of the many who were least affected by the fires resulting in minimal loss not worth mentioning. Although being evacuated from your home is no easy task for anyone, I was fortunate to move to safer ground; to an environment that provided a most comfortable stay under the circumstances all the while making plans for the next safe haven. My new location was on evacuation alert  as well and people, dogs, cats, chickens and horses were on standby; watching, waiting and wondering which area would be next while hearing continuous aircraft and sirens; smelling and breathing the smoke ; enduring the emotional and psychological impacts of such a disaster; continuously  seeking information from media outlets and local governments while communicating with family and friends near and far, knowing that  it was not just the fire hazards to be concerned about, but the lack of road access in and out of any particular area as well as access to supplies. If you didn’t have anxieties before the disaster, you certainly developed a few during this time!

 

As many new fires continue to ignite all around the province and new individuals are in the process of evacuating, the Cariboo has begun its return to normalcy. The knowledge that fire season is still not over keeps us on guard; packed and ready to go again should need be. Such a disaster could affect any one of you at any time so I would like to take this opportunity to remind members how valuable it is to have an Emergency Preparedness Kit ready to go at all times and encourage you to be sure this is in place. In the moment of a disaster is not the time to ponder what essentials and valuables you need to take. Things such as medications, passports/birth certificate, jewelry, photos,  cash if possible and other priorities such as your white cane, guide dog supplies  and/or assistive devices to name a few.  I speak from experience and say that I was very glad I had my emergency pack on standby as I do year round and even before the evacuation alert was announced, I had my bag topped up with other personal needs so when the evacuation order was announced, it truly was just a matter of “grab & go.”

It is so very gratifying to know that no human tragedies have taken place to date as a result of the fires and I can tell you that as you are walking out the door with only a backpack or two not knowing what you will return to; that all you really care about in the moment is your life!  You are reminded just how much stuff you can really live without and that no amount of worry will prevent Mother Nature from doing what she sets out to do so you have to dig deep to find your inner calm the best you can. It is with eternal gratitude that I salute the emergency personnel and volunteers who so bravely and successfully fought the battle on our behalf. Despite the overall success, our hearts go out to those that did end up losing their homes, livestock and more. Many individuals, communities along with private and government organizations will continue to provide on -going support to those in need.  For example, visit: http://www.bcwildfiretshirts.com/  .This is a great story of how a couple of individuals created a BC Wildfire T-shirt campaign with all proceeds going to the cause and the support has been fantastic; beyond their expectations. Please share the link.

 

Although you may not have been evacuated, all residents of BC have been affected by the wildfires in some way. Many of our CCB communities were affected with being evacuated like 100 Mile House and Williams Lake while others such as Kamloops and Prince George accommodated thousands of evacuees.  Currently, Kelowna is being impacted by a new roaring fire which we hope is soon distinguished.

 

There are so many stories to tell about the summer of 2017 in British Columbia and I am confident in saying that someone will end up writing a book about it so I will spare you of any other details for now.

 

In closing, I would like to thank those individuals who reached out to us all here in 100 Mile House during the crisis and to my evacuee hosts who took in a few of us evacuees while they also were on alert having to be ready to go at any minute. Should you ever have to be evacuated I highly recommend reserving a room at the home of Judy Macdonald and Glen Strand … thanks so very much Judy & Glen – your hospitality and kindness will never be forgotten nor will the squirrel hunts, the evening toad watching rituals or the flower thieving deer as well as the humour and corny country song writing lyrics – To Buddy, Smokey, Sulley, Nip & tuck along with Maya, Callie, Ali and Ebony … thanks for the critter fun distractions –  to the chickens for those fresh eggs and to our fellow evacuees – thanks for the gourmet desserts and additional support!  Collectively, we were very fortunate to have been able to make the best of a very serious situation.

Submitted by Lori Fry