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The Packing House: road to recovery one year after B.C. fires

By Angela Hill, Canadian Red Cross

The Packing House owner Steve RiceThe Packing House is a meeting place for the people of Spences Bridge, whether it’s to have a cup of coffee, catch up on the latest news and gossip, or chat with owner and local politician Steve Rice.
It’s also a stopping point for people on the road to elsewhere in B.C.
Or it was, until last summer when massive wildfires stopped the flow of tourist traffic through Spences Bridge. In early July, the road was closed just south of community and the usual movement of summer traffic, which came by the Packing House and General Store, was gone, said Steve. There was no one stopping at his fruit stand either.
Steve is a farmer. He has been growing in the Spences Bridge area for more than 30 years. While his crops were spared from the fire, the smoke meant the bees were absent and his fruit wasn’t pollinated.
Since Steve started the Packing House and the General Store 11 years ago, he has been determined to be a year-round location. But the lack of income in the summer continued into the winter, forcing the Packing House to close from December 21 to February 12.
“This has been the slowest year, at this time of year, in 10 years.”
With three businesses impacted, it was looking grim for Steve. He reached out to the Canadian Red Cross Support for Small Business Program. He filled out forms for both phases one and two of the program.
“I was pretty happy with the whole process as far as the Red Cross.”
He received financial support.
“It meant everything,” Steve said.  
“What would I have done without that; I would have been hooped.”
As he sat drinking coffee in the Packing House, with its mismatched furniture and antiques from a bygone era lining the walls, he smiled.
“I love living here; I will live here for the rest of my life. I love living on the river and being a farmer,” he said. “My whole life has been about my family and my community.”
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