Evelyn McDonald poses with her son Greg and Const. Brad Rendall. Rendall helped track down McDonald’s son years ago, and help him on the road to recovery from addictions. The officer and grateful mom had a chance encountered in Likely during the wildfires last year. Submitted photo.

Evelyn McDonald poses with her son Greg and Const. Brad Rendall. Rendall helped track down McDonald’s son years ago, and help him on the road to recovery from addictions. The officer and grateful mom had a chance encountered in Likely during the wildfires last year. Submitted photo.

2017 wildfires give B.C. mom chance to say thank you to officer who saved her son

An unlikely encounter in the rural community of Likely, near Williams Lake

When Evelyn McDonald was serving coffee to a group of strangers in Likely while the rest of the Cariboo was evacuated during the 2017 wildfires, she never expected who she would encounter.

It’s a story that begins in 2014, when McDonald’s son, Greg, went missing.

“I was in Alberta at the time, and I lived there, and I got a phone call from the Chilliwack transit company that his cell phone and belongings were found on a bus, but that no one could find him.”

At the time, her son was addicted to drugs and to be so far away when he was missing was tough on McDonald.

She called the RCMP and ended up on the phone with Const. Brad Rendall.

“He was the one I dealt with from the beginning. He started the fire and he was just a kind, kind fellow. He went above and beyond calling me every day to give me updates,” she said.

Two weeks later she got a special call from Rendall.

“He said, just one second, and passed the phone over to my son. He took him to a detox clinic and made sure he was alright,” said McDonald. “It was pretty amazing.”

READ MORE: Wildfire T-Shirt proceeds exceed all expectations

She said that was the first step on her son’s path to sobriety, and would send Rendall an update on the anniversary every year to thank him for everything that he had done.

Three years later, McDonald had moved to the Cariboo. Originally visiting Anahim Lake, (because she wanted to see where Carey Price was from), McDonald fell in love with the place.

When the fires started last July, and McDonald heard there were RCMP being brought from all over the area, she sent an email to Rendall telling him he was welcome in their home if he was ever in the area.

She said he responded with “My boss said I am too old and crotchety to be sent out.”

In an unusual move for McDonald and her husband, she said they headed down to the Likely Lodge one evening to watch the fights.

“All of a sudden the RCMP officers came in,” she said. “I was making coffee and just yacking away, and out of curiosity I asked if anyone was here from Chilliwack.”

The officers pointed out a very tall man.

“I said do you happen to know Brad Rendall? He pointed to his name tag, and I said, ‘What?’

“He said, ‘I’m Brad Rendall’ and I started crying.”

She introduced herself as Greg’s mom, and started talking.

“I was finally able to say thank you in person,” she said.

“It was amazing to say thank you to his face — Well, I stood on a chair.”

She counts it as one of the best things that has ever happened to her.

“You can say to someone thank you so many times via internet and email, but to actually meet him in person was the greatest thing ever. To look him in the eyes and say thank you. This whole thing has come full circle and something that started out so tragically has the best ending.”

READ MORE: B.C. rancher demands change on how gov’t handles emergencies after 2017 wildfires

She sent a letter to the RCMP afterwards, retelling the story, and nominating Rendall for any type of award that would fit the circumstance.

In June, Rendall was honoured for his compassion, thanks to McDonald’s nomination, and McDonald herself was given a Challenge Coin, to celebrate her acknowledgment.

“It was pretty neat,” said McDonald. “There was good that came out of the fires for us.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

A report by investigator Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond found “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in a report released Monday.
Peninsula hospital one where ‘significant work underway’

Investigation finds ‘widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people’ in provincial health care

Classes are cancelled at Royal Bay Secondary School and other schools Nov. 30 due to power outages. (Black Press Media file photo)
Classes cancelled across the West Shore, Sooke due to power outages

Students can be picked up but facilities remain open

Victoria police issued tickets to two Victoria party hosts Saturday night, according to VicPD Chief Del Manak. (Unsplash)
Victoria partiers hid in closets, bedrooms in an attempt to avoid fines

Police gave out COVID-19 tickets to two separate parties

Parking fees at Thetis Lake Park will be going up at some point, but not without further discussion. Capital Regional District directors asked CRD staff to come back with alternatives, after hearing a proposal that would increase the $2.25 per day rate to $7 for 2021. (Google Maps)
Greater Victoria politicians ditch plan for $7 daily parking at Thetis Lake

Capital Regional District directors fear backlash from parks users

The Fraser Institute’s annual report card on B.C. elementary schools ranks schools across the province based on standardized tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Fraser Institute delivers Greater Victoria elementary schools a mixed report card

The annual report card compares test scores of schools across the province

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009. (RCMP photo)
Human remains found off U.S. coast in 2009 identified as Penticton man

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009

Remains of the scene off Melrose Road in Whiskey Creek where three bodies were found on Nov. 1, 2020. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Probe continues into grisly mid-Island discovery of 3 human bodies, 4 dead dogs

Police still want to speak with motorist who picked up hitchhikers near scene on Nov. 1

An man from Errington died when his ATV went over an embankment on Northwest Bay Logging Road on the weekend. (File photo)
ATV rider goes over embankment and dies on back road near Nanaimo

45-year-old man from Errington died in incident Saturday afternoon

The Nov. 20 WestJet flight 3171 has been identified by the BC Centre for Disease Control with a COVID case aboard. (Black Press file photo)
Fifth COVID-19 exposure reported on flight at Comox airport

Another exposure risk from flight originating in Calgary

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan announce $5 billion emergency fund for COVID-19 unemployment and other relief, B.C. legislature, March 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
Carole James stays on to advise B.C. Premier John Horgan

Retired finance minister to earn a dollar a year

Most Read