The fire in our heart
The fire in our heart - This campaign is to help those that were hit the hardest to recover.
This campaign is to unite our voices to ensure this does not happen again.
The rural community of Southside in north-western British Columbia has been fighting fiercely against wild fires and for their right to protect their livelihoods. Strangled by red tape and abandoned by the government, they've prevailed through it all by coming together as a community. Help us spread their stories to ensure this does not happen to another community. Help us bring these families that have had their lives turned upside down back on their feet.
Your donations will be distributed to those most in need by the Southside Relief Team and The Postmen Burns Lake Outpost. Donations will go towards:
- Covering costs the “Southsiders” have incurred while fighting fires themselves
Equipment, water systems, and aid (hauling livestock, dropping off donations) has all been self-funded by locals and the community. A water system costs around CA$3’000 and everything uses fuel - the machinery to build fireguards, pumps to put out hotspots, power generators to cook and recharge necessities.
- Helping the farmers buy hay and feed for animals now that crops have been lost.
There will be a long winter ahead with 80% of the region burnt. Hay prices are expected to go through the roof in the region. Monetary donations are required immediately to help secure feed for the animals that have survived.
- Rebuilding what has been lost. Despite all the efforts, more than a handful of families lost their homes. Many families have lost outbuildings, machinery, hundreds of kilometres of fence. 90% is without insurance. We need help to rebuild the heart of the community.
More than 500 wildfires have been raging in north western Canada. Just south of Burns Lake, B.C., and tucked in between two large lakes, there is a collection of properties and farms called “the Southside”, a jewel of natural beauty and wildlife. On July 31, a storm dropped a number of lightning strikes in this area and three spot-fires ensued. They aren't spot-fires anymore.
Collectively, the fires are covering an area of more than 120’000 hectares (or 1200 km2), and they are growing each day. Since the 2nd week of August, there has been an evacuation order put in place for this area. People were leaving and would have left but they noticed something - as the fires were picking up and growing, the number of fire fighters and resources allocated weren’t. Ca 100 residents decided to stay and save their community themselves.
The families on the Southside live largely off the land - they husband woodlots and livestock, filling their freezers for the winter with what they have grown. Many of the residents are of or near retirement age and have been working this land since their youth. Many have built up their homes with their own two hands. A Southsider’s money is not in the bank, but in property, barns, machinery, hay fields, wood lots and livestock. Insurance is unaffordable and 90% of the people don’t have it.
Throughout the remainder of August, there has not been more than 200 fire fighters to the area. For the Nadina fire, the largest fire affecting the region, the ratio of fire fighter has never been higher than 1 fire fighter to 10 km2. During a two week period where the fires more than doubled or tripled in size, there was little or no air support. With the amount of official resources allocated, the Southside did not have a fighting chance.
Additional to the lack of support, road blocks were put in place to prevent resources from getting to the people that stayed. Families on the outside were and are still prevented from getting equipment and resources to their loved ones. Nothing – not even food, face masks, and fuel – were allowed in, and if you left, you weren't coming back.
"When the people found that government was unwilling to take care of them, they took care of each other. Dad needed a water pump to protect their home. He had given his water pump already away to someone closer to danger, but the wind was turning and his home was at risk - there was no running water at the house. With the little cell service he had, he only managed to send us a message saying "Would need water pump to pump from lake. Impossible to get. Not enough hose on the Southside. Ban in place cutting all resources." From thousands of kilometers away, I panicked. We'd already spent weeks calling and writing to anyone we could - BC Wildfire Services, Regional District, Ministers, even Trudeau - and nothing had changed. No help was coming and nothing was allowed through. So I wrote to The Postmen Burns Lake Outpost, and within minutes I had a reply. They would get it through somehow. I called the local supply stores for help - I told them only what I knew of the terrain. They put together a kit for me, complete with sprinklers, in 30 minutes. They charged it to my card via phone, no questions asked. As soon as it was together, the Postmen picked up my order from two different stores and get it onto the Southside somehow - despite the ban. Within two hours, the pump was on the Southside and even delivered to my father. Someone even noticed that the pump I bought would be too weak for the uphill at my dad's house, and traded pumps before it even got to him. I cried out of sheer relief when he sent me the news that he got the pump and hose.
In the face of so much adversity, this small community has risen up to the challenge and roared.”
Despite there still being “safe space” and escape routes left on the Southside, BC Wildfires decided to pull fire fighters out when the time was most critical. Locals that had exercised their right to stay and protect their properties and livestock were cut off from resources, news, and loved ones through the roadblocks. Southsiders were told that the tactic was to “starve them out”.
"While other similar sized fires in the area were being put out, our homes was left to burn. At the time when we needed governmental support the most, red tape was slung around our necks. Official websites listed equipment and resources on fires that weren’t there. We felt lied to. Help in the form of millions of dollars of water systems were turned away with excuses that seemed to be full of holes.
In 2017, the exact same stories were told by other rural communities facing the same situation – lack of resources, bans put in place cutting off resources from locals. To this day, we do not have a clear justification or plan from BC Wildfire Service. Together we need to hold our government accountable. If not, we will hear the same tragic stories out of another rural community next year."
This campaign is to help those that were hit the hardest to recover.
This campaign is also to unite our voices and ensure this does not happen again.