Melissa Smalley

In trying times, community is everything

It’s an all too familiar feeling for many of us in the 100 Mile House region.

The constant rumble of helicopters, the choking taste of thick smoke. Constantly glued to the computer for the latest updates, while sorting through a house full of possessions, trying to narrow down what can fit in your truck at a moment’s notice.

The 2017 disaster was my first experience being directly impacted by wildfires.

We were comically naive about what to expect that summer. I remember getting the call that Friday that 108 Mile Ranch was being evacuated and thinking, ‘well, I’m sure we’ll be back by Sunday, or Monday at the latest.’

I packed accordingly, unfortunately, and we headed a few miles south to my parents’ property at 103 Mile Lake.

It was less than two hours after arriving that Search and Rescue came speeding down my parents’ driveway, yelling at us to get the kids and get out immediately.

We learned a lot that summer, not the least of which was to pack more than two changes of clothes when evacuating.

We learned the importance of having reliable, accurate information in the face of disaster, and taking a break from social media when the “online experts” become too much to handle.

We learned that when things are completely out of our control, we need to trust in the professionals and focus on keeping our family safe and calm.

Most importantly, we learned that the South Cariboo is, without a doubt, the place we want to be.

Back then, we had only been in the Cariboo for a year, and our friends and family back home immediately began asking if we would be moving back to the coast after such a scary summer.

But our feeling was quite the opposite. We witnessed first-hand how this community came together in ways we’d never seen.

The offers of pasture for animals, makeshift food banks for evacuees, rides from strangers to safer destinations – not a day went by that we didn’t see amazing acts of kindness take place.

Nobody wants to be in the situation we are finding ourselves again this summer. But if we can come together as we did in 2017, we will pull through the other side even stronger than before.

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100 Mile House