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Persistence through recovery: reflections on the 2017 B.C. Fires

Stephen stands next to a lone tree, only steps away from his home. One side of the tree is burned, while the other side appears to be untouched. It’s a reminder of just how close his home, just outside of Quesnel, was to being completely destroyed by the British Columbia Wildfires of 2017.

He remembers the moment the fire started clearly. He and his wife were watching the lightening from their property.

“We saw it hit on the opposite side of the river and start a fire,” says Stephen. “We knew from the way the wind was blowing...we knew we had to scurry.”

Sure enough, not long afterward, the Butlers were visited by the RCMP and told to evacuate. Only 45 minutes had passed from the time the fire started to when they received the order to leave. Stephen loaded the camper while his wife sprayed down the house with water.

“In 45 minutes, you don’t have a lot of time to think about anything,” says Stephen.
Stephen infront of his home with burnt tree
When Stephen was able to return to the property 48 hours later, he was relieved to discover that his home had only experienced minor damage. But everything else on the property was gone, the aluminum roof of the dog house still hot to the touch. Recovery was going to take time, from cleaning up the property to repairing the home.

“Red Cross was on the scene quickly. We have nothing but praise for the Red Cross,” says Stephen. “They were on the ball and they sure softened the blow for us.”
The Butlers were able to access financial assistance to help in their recovery, including funds to repair their home and to help their small business.

Over a year later, the Butlers still feel as though they are recovering. While their home has been repaired and they’ve started to replace lost equipment and tools, the emotional toll persists.

“It’s difficult to talk about,” says Stephen. “The emotional side of it is strong. And the Red Cross has been good at supporting in that department too.”

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How people are learning about stress management one year after B.C. wildfires
The Packing House: road to recovery one year after B.C. fires
After the evacuation, giving back through volunteering
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