From Alberta Fire evacuee to Red Cross Responder for the B.C. Floods response

“I definitely sympathize with the people evacuated in British Columbia because I have gone through it myself.”

A man standing by an open suitcase with a mask on and wearing a Red Cross vest.Brian Boyes is in Kamloops, British Columbia with the Canadian Red Cross as part of the logistics team at the Reception Centre for people evacuated from their homes. He knows what they are going through because he and his wife Angela were two of some 80,000 people who had to flee the wildfire that descended on Fort McMurray in 2016. 

“When you’re evacuated, you don’t know the status of your home or what you will return to. You are living in a hotel, eating meals from restaurants, and glued to the news,” Brian explains.

He worked in Fort McMurray in the oil patch for 10 years and was the Logistics Section Chief in emergency management for a large oil company.

Brian was 70 kilometres south of the city in a work camp when the fire roared into the area. His wife was in Edmonton at the time, so he asked their neighbours to rescue three precious mementos from their home before they fled the city. These special items were given to the Boyes family by the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (based in Edmonton) after the death of their oldest son, Lieutenant Justin Boyes, in Afghanistan in 2009.

“When Justin joined the military, he said he wanted to dedicate his life to protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. His battalion had put together some items and they were irreplaceable. After our neighbours were able to rescue those mementos, we had a sense of peace. At least we had that,” Brian shares.

He credits the kindness of strangers and support from communities far and wide, with helping them cope with the wildfire and evacuation. Brian notes that retailers in Edmonton opened their doors to help them with personal items and clothing. People drove the highways with water and supplies to give to the people who evacuated as they drove to safety.

“There was a lot of uncertainty because we weren’t home at the time. The outpouring of support was unbelievable. It picks you up and helps sustain you.”

A man in mask and Red Cross vest picking up a Red Cross clean-up kit from a pile of many other kits lining a wall.Brian and his wife moved to Whitehorse, Yukon in 2019, where he began to volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross. The response to the floods in B.C. is his first deployment.

He is in familiar territory working logistics and says you “have to be flexible to get things done because there is always another challenge.”

Brian’s experience as an evacuee and years working in logistics and emergency management give him a unique understanding how to support the teams assisting those impacted by disaster and what that assistance means to the people displaced.  

“It feels meaningful and gives me a sense of purpose.”

And more than that, Brian enjoys helping people, he says.

Learn more about the Red Cross British Columbia Flood and Extreme Weather Response.

Canadians wishing to help are encouraged to make a financial donation to the British Columbia Floods and Extreme Weather Appeal either online at redcross.ca, by calling 1-800-418-1111, or by texting BCFLOODS to 30333.

Between November 17 and December 26, 2021, the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia will each match every dollar donated to the Canadian Red Cross 2021 British Columbia Floods & Extreme Weather Appeal, tripling every $1 donated.

 
Related stories:
comments powered by Disqus