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.

Just Posted

B.C. government invests $1.9 billion in community housing

14,000 mixed-income affordable units to be built with local housing providers, advocates

Complaint filed against B.C. naturopath who treated boy with rabid dog saliva

BC Naturopathic Association questions Dr. Anke Zimmermann’s conduct on recent treatments

Girls soccer team kicks off at Sooke school

Squad hits pitch for first time eight years

Manak calls Const. Ian Jordan fallen hero

Late Victoria cop mourned at funeral by officers from numerous local, out-of-town jurisdictions

North Saanich added to list of places that want tax exemption

District seeks meeting with Province about alternatives

Shania Twain visits Canadian Armed Forces base in B.C.

Canadian country icon thanks members of CFB Esquimalt for their service

Countdown is on to the 2018 B.C. Summer Games

Cowichan Valley hosts on July 19-22

Spring Home Show this weekend in Colwood

West Shore Parks and Recreation will be transformed to showcase everything home related

Driving Change: A B.C. man’s charitable trip across Canada

A Kelowna man, his bus, and his mission for positive change across our country

Case of teacher secretly filming teens reaches top court

Acquittal of teacher, Ryan Jarvis, who secretly videoed teens ‘dangerous,’ top court told

Why a 14-year-old will lead the charge at annual marijuana protest on the Hill

Marijuana enthusiasts have long been circling April 20 on their calendars as annual day of cannabis

B.C. communities await marine spill compensation years after incidents

The government maintains a Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund to compensate Canadians

RCMP say too early to know what happened in Broncos crash

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said collission very complex

Conservative MP wants feds to close loophole for illegal border crossers

Immigration advocates call on government to suspend Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement

Most Read