Life after the fire in Barriere

Note: The following appeal is now closed.  You can support our ongoing work by donating to the Canadian Red Cross


One month after a wildfire blazed into Barriere, B.C., life is beginning to look almost normal. Kids returned to school on schedule on September 2. Businesses – those that survived the evacuations and power outages – are operating, and the atmosphere is that life is carrying on in this small town that will be forever changed.

Canadian Red Cross last week set up an office in the Legion Hall – a cool, welcome, basement refuge where clients can come in out of the fierce heat to meet with Red Cross volunteers and tell their stories.

“Listening is a big part of what we do,” says Dixie Fenwick, volunteer manager of the Barriere operation for Red Cross. “We hear stories of loss, of sadness, but also of hope.” After the stories, the workers try to provide assistance to residents who, in many cases, have lost everything – their home, their possessions and their jobs. Hard hit among the area’s some 3,000 residents are those who worked at the local lumber mill. The Tolko Mill was a casualty of August’s fire, leaving more than 180 employees out of work.

While residents await government safety net assistance, such as Employment Insurance, Red Cross is helping to fill gaps for rent, food and other unmet needs including everything from prescription eyeglasses to medicines to dentures. Every family is unique, and each is helped according to their particular needs.

Woven among the sad stories that residents tell each other as they recover, are the good tales that bring smiles and hope. Like the woman who had help sifting through the soot in her burned out home, and was able to find her diamond wedding ring. Or the man who recovered coins from his collection through a tedious process of running silt through a sieve. Every china cup that emerges from the ashes, every intact picture frame, is a reminder of what was. This is a summer that will not be forgotten.