Inside the Smoke: Williams Lake Band – Above and Beyond in Wild Fire Efforts

Williams Lake, BC: As the 2017 Interface Fires in the Williams Lake Region began in July, the members of the Sugar Cane Band were truly on the front lines. Stepping into immediate action as fire skipped Highway 97 at Mission Road, fire volunteers grabbed any and all equipment available to them. Due to quick thinking and resourcefulness, only two Band structures were lost in the initial blaze.

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In the days following the evacuation order, 29 band members remained to maintain fire protection of the Sugar Cane Band lands. Those volunteers conducted daily ground patrols while utilizing Piss Cans; a slang term given to a backpack warn device consisting, of a small water tank, hose and hand tube-pump.

Further to their front line efforts, Sugar Cane Band volunteer fire fighters also joined forces with the 150 Mile House Fire Department and Spoken Lake Fire Department.

“I think one of the most significant highlights amongst the fire disaster, was the seamless transition from our communities’ everyday life into a situation of emergency management,” says Band Administrator, Marg Shelley of the Sugar Cane Band. “The community did what needed to be done – fires were put out, lands were protected and supplies were brought in to keep the efforts going.”

In these types of situations it is difficult to highlight the efforts of just one single person; however, in not doing so sometimes much needed recognition is unfortunately missed. Ira Nelson, from the Sugar Cane Band, gave selflessly not only to his community, but to other communities as he worked tirelessly during the initial fire efforts. Mr. Nelson worked 15-hour-days (and more) over a three week period. Each night after his labours, Mr. Nelson took the time to clean his truck and fire equipment to a standard of parade ready, so to ensure his equipment would stand the test of yet another day’s work.

Photo by RCMP
Photo by RCMP
Photo by RCMP
Photo by RCMP

“This community took on the wild fire challenge in a way that echoes how they have taken on community challenges in the past,” says Constable Dan Cohen, First Nations Officer, Williams Lake. “During their moment of crisis this community pulled together. They protected not only the Sugar Cane Band lands, but also helped protect the greater community of which they are a part.”

BC RCMP


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