The launch of a special barbecue sauce series created by a Big Lake Volunteer Fire and Rescue (BLVFR) member in the Cariboo was a success.
More than 100 adults with children in tow showed up at the BLVFR hall adjacent to the Likely Road on Sunday, July 30 from 1 to 3 p.m. for the event.
“We sold 140 boxes of the three packs,” said deputy chief Mark Wilkie, the mastermind behind the barbecue sauce.
“Ken Waters our communications officer has sold another 20-plus through work since Sunday. People are awesome.”
Wilkie created the Firehall Classics Gourmet as a product other fire departments could use to fundraise. A manufacturer in the Fraser Valley is working with him on the project.
A former chef, Wilkie went to French culinary school in the early 1980s and got his first job at Bridges Restaurant on Granville Island.
When a friend of his started a catering company, he joined him and began getting into making sauces which sold in grocery store outlets.
He and his wife Donna moved to Big Lake from South Surrey in 2016.
When the 2017 wildfires hit, they went down to the fire department to see if they could help.
“I had no experience firefighting but thought I could help with driving or something,” he said.
After signing up he headed home and within five minutes received a phone call from the fire department telling him he was needed and to come down to the hall with clothes that were not flammable and some gloves.
“The next thing you know I’m doing mop up on a cut-block,” Wilkie recalled. “It was one of the best two weeks in my life.”
Through the experience he met people in the community and said it was very enriching.
Joel Bruneski, fire chief and full-time emergency nurse, arrived for the fundraiser after working a night shift at Cariboo Memorial Hospital.
He said the sauce project has been exciting.
“This has been Mark’s project but he has kept us all up to date and it has just grown,” Bruneski said. “Fire departments need this.”
Bruneski described Wilkie’s efforts as inspiring.
“I really like that he took something that he knows and he made it work. Anybody can do that it and does not have to be about firefighting.”
Every community desperately needs volunteers and support, he added.
“Volunteerism is declining and by people just using their own skills think how great this country could be. I think Mark is on to something.”
On the menu at the event were chicken wings, pork ribs, back ribs, all doused with the sauces, pakora, with a steak sauce chutney, corn on the cob with butters made with the sauces, veggies and baking, as well as candy bags for the children.
Members of the fire department joined Wilkie at the grill and deep fryers – for the pakora.
Virginia Waters, who has been a firefighter for almost 22 years, was greeting guests and selling the barbecue sauces.
Richard Lucy joined the fire department last year and loves being a volunteer.
A retired police officer from the Fraser Valley, he had experience in emergency services.
“My wife’s family is connected to this area,” Lucy said of why they decided to retire in Big Lake.
Wilkie said moving to Big Lake has been ‘magical’ for he and his wife Donna.
“There were a lot of serendipitous events that happened to get us here and like I’ve said to others, they’ll be hauling me out by my boots when the time comes.”