Wildfires strand vacationing family in Ladysmith

Wildfires strand vacationing family in Ladysmith

A Cache Creek family is currently stranded in Ladysmith after wildfires forced the sudden evacuation of their First Nation community last week while they were vacationing here on Vancouver Island.

“A lot of people stayed behind on the reserve and did everything they could to protect it,” said Heather Daniel, who had planned a short visit to see her dad with husband James and their two children, Hunter, 5, and two-year-old Storeigh.

“We had no chance of saving anything but luckily my mom was able to get home after the fire passed…we had to sit there on the phone with her and decide what was important.”

RELATED: Interactive map paints B.C. wildfire picture

The Ashcroft Reserve wildfire near Cache Creek sparked late Thursday night, only a day after the Daniels had arrived on the island and about 48 hours or so before their scheduled departure to make the seven hour journey back north.

Helplessly watching as images of the destruction spread on social media and in the news more quickly than the fire itself, the family tried to come to grips with the extent of the damage.

“The fire was coming down the mountain again towards our house and the wind shifted and blew it away,” James said, describing how their home on Bonaparte Reserve a few kilometres north of Cache Creek was spared.

RELATED: Wildfires burn 78,000 hectares across B.C.

Over the course of an hour on Friday they went from not knowing if someone would be able to rescue their cat to learning their home was likely safe and finally feelings of sadness and helplessness for others affected by the fires.

“It was rough. We heard some extended family had lost their house and friends who had lost their animals,” Heather said. “We’re here and we can’t do much to help and we feel so bad. Our community really comes together and we really support each other so that’s weighing heavy on us being this far away.”

Back at home, Heather runs her own small business online and James works on a dairy farm. The owners are hoping to rebuild after almost all of their 2,000 cows were saved.

“When we are actually there I think it will hit us a little bit harder,” James said.

RELATED: Ashcroft Reserve wildfire hit 10,300 hectares

According to BC Wildlife Service, strong winds earlier this week caused the Ashcroft fire to double in size to over 10,000 hectares.

An update on Wednesday afternoon noted there were 183 fires burning in B.C., down from 219 a day earlier.

Emergency Management BC deputy minister Robert Turner said that 7,886 people have registered at local emergency social services centres and 3,500 are taking advantage of the emergency lodging available.

The Daniels are happy to be in Ladysmith – living in a travel trailer they borrowed from a friend for the trip – but at the same time had to fight hard to access some of the same emergency support services available to those at the evacuation centre in Kamloops.

“Coming here for our vacation was a treat and we saved up for it,” Heather said. “It’s stressful trying to figure out how we’re going to make it all work financially. We are just as evacuated as everybody else and there is funding for this and resources out there for people in our position.”

RELATED: Wildfire evacuees frustrated with Red Cross waits

Finally, after phone calls to MLAs both at home and here on the island, the Cowichan Valley Regional District received permission from the province to give them ‘minimal’ help for food and other essentials such as diapers, but not for accommodations or clothing.

“My son doesn’t have any pants because we didn’t pack for colder weather,” said Heather, adding that while her dad is here as support they also don’t want to be a burden. “He can’t afford to feed four extra people. Everybody is on a budget. It’s not an easy thing to do.”

They don’t have immediate plans to return home if the air quality is a risk to their children’s health and hope others who are displaced and facing similar challenges getting access to social services speak up.

Hearing about their situation, many local residents have reached out to help the family and the Daniels are grateful for the additional support.

“Ladysmith has been super, super good to us,” Heather said.

BC Wildfirebc wildfiresladysmithRotary Club of Ashcroft and Cache Creek

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Volunteers from the Alberni Valley Enhancement Society release a bucket filled with 5,000 coho fry into Kitsuksis Creek on the bridge at Batty Road, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVID HOOPER)
Volunteers release thousands of coho fry into Port Alberni creeks

Fry come from small hatchery on McLean Mill National Historic Site

In the five years since the Dry Creek flood abatement project was completed, the pathway built behind commercial buildings on Third Avenue has become overgrown with Scotch broom and other weeds. (PHOTO COURTESY RANDY FRASER)
‘New’ Dry Creek path falls into disrepair in Port Alberni

City’s land access contracts lapse as condition of pathway beside creek deteriorates

May is Hospice month and the kickoff for a new fundraiser. Mayor Sharie Minions, centre, declared it with hospice services coordinator Victoria Snow, left, and AV Hospice executive director Teresa Ludvigson. (SONJA DRINKWATER / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Alberni Valley Hospice Society invites community to ‘Step Out’ for Ty Watson House

The event is the society’s COVID-19 answer to fundraising

A group walks along Third Avenue in Port Alberni on Wednesday, May 5, marking Red Dress Day. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Red Dress Day ceremony in Port Alberni honours the memory of Chantel Moore

Moore’s family, friends ‘frustrated’ by lack of answers in her death

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy Creek

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read