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Keeping animals safe

Wrangler rides horse bareback

Woman sits in passenger seat of a red truck.

1. Wendy Hawes knew her neighbour’s horses were in danger.

We lived on Branchflower Road and were enjoying a day at the lake when lightning struck just above our house in Silver Creek. The days that followed were filled with moving our livestock out of the valley, going to forestry meetings at our community hall that assured us that we had nothing to worry about, to all hell breaking loose. I had to leave my husband at home to fight fire while I hauled the rest of our livestock out.

As I was passing the neighbour’s place, I made the flash decision to pull in and grab his stallion that was housed in the barn. As I was loading the horse the owner’s wife came out in panic wondering what we should do with the rest of the mares, foals, and yearlings that were out in the field. I suggested we open gates and try and move them down the valley. This worked till the horses got out on the road and started milling around wanting to go back to their familiar pasture. With the help of many people I was able to catch one of the brood mares and started leading her down Silver Creek Road hoping the rest would follow and they did.

I soon ran out of wind trying to keep ahead of the band of horses so I decided to try and ride the mare I was leading. I wrapped my hands in her mane and let her pack my weight for a few yards then decided to swing up on her back and away we went. As I was riding down the road I looked over my shoulder to see the barn I had just left go up in flames and the fire had jumped the valley at that moment. I knew there was a set of corrals down past the Silver Creek store that if I could get the horses there we could back trailers in and haul them out. A lot of these horses were not halter broke so this was our best choice. With the help of a lot of people we were successful in getting all these animals to the corrals and hauled out.

My trailer that had the stallion in it was parked on the road outside the farm I had just left with the horses. As I was riding past a stream of vehicles I saw a close friend and got him to bring the trailer down to the corrals. I found a safe spot to house the stallion that night and the rest of the brood mare band were hauled out to Falkland. My horses ended up in Armstrong for the weeks.

My husband was able to save our house but we lost most of our outbuildings and a lot of our neighbourhood was gone.

We were very grateful to all the volunteers that helped our community get back on their feet and very disturbed about the way this fire was handled. There were too many bad decisions made from not letting local loggers fight the fire to grounding water bombers when they may have made a difference.

Wendy Hawes

We needed a snake charmer!

In 1998 I was the Advisory Representative for Search and Rescue. At that time we were [supporting the suppression of the fire] working out of the MOF Firebase at the Kamloops Airport. It became quickly evident due to the size of the operation, we were stretching that resource to the point that we were going to have to move [down the road to the Agriculture buildings] where there were rattlesnakes on site.  Needless to say this posed a problem.  How do you deal with poisonous snakes in an older building complex?

Man wearing a baseball cap smiles as he holds a snake with snake tongs.

2. Pete Wise and a Western Rattlesnake. Pete is using snake tongs. Imagine him crawling in a crawl space on his hands and knees with nothing but a headlamp and snake tongs.

Outside the SAR world my business is Wildlife Control where I am considered an Urban Wildlife Specialist.  Snake stick in hand and with a borrowed garbage can I went through and around all of the buildings on the site.  The most difficult time was on hands and knees in the crawl spaces trying to find the snakes in the dark.  All turned out well.  These snakes were coming down from the rock talus slopes behind the buildings. [Returning them to their natural environment] was only a matter of going 500m up the road and shaking them out of the garbage can and letting them go.

I did run a snake safety seminar and briefings on snake protocol however there was more than one person that asked for an escort between buildings especially in the middle of the night.

Pete Wise
Manager Vernon SAR
Wise Wildlife Control

Portrait of a blond woman wearing glasses with a cat on her shoulders.

3. Jeanette Clement

Cats evacuate too

On July 31st a friend casually mentioned there’d been a lightning strike. “Oh” we all said, and I thought nothing more about it. Sunday, while visiting a friend, her husband called us outside. “Something’s happened,” he said, as we stared at smoke billowing above the mountain.

Wednesday, while cleaning the car for a trip, I found myself standing in raining ash. I walked to the end of the road and looked towards the Salmon Valley where trees were exploding. Plans changed.

I spent a sleepless night camped out next to the radio listening to fire updates, with my cat crates assembled. My roommate, an SPCA staff member, drove to the shelter in the Industrial Park. She told me driving through a blizzard of ash with the school busses streaming past her as they relocated, was surreal.

The SPCA staff prepared for a possible evacuation. The next morning, after surveying the fire from the roof of the building, the decision was made. My roommate and I decided to evacuate with our cats as well.

All the dogs were fostered out and a number of cats were transferred to another SPCA. The use of a large air conditioned van was donated, and the SPCA evacuated with the rest of the cats to Dale and Lianne Wright’s home on Hilltop Road in Sorrento, twenty-five minutes west of Salmon Arm. The SPCA cats were housed in one empty room, and our cats in another. Lloyd, a neighbour across the road, offered the use of an empty cow barn he’d just finished steam cleaning. When the town evacuated, people unable to take their cats with them, brought them to Hilltop Road – the last one arriving around 3 a.m.

People without transportation were bussed out of town. One man refused to leave until we collected his cat from him. We picked up another 19 and housed them in a separate barn. Makeshift litter pans were made from large square plastic margarine containers and cardboard flats. Bags of litter and food were dropped off or delivered. Frequent checks were made to top up food and water, and each crate was cleaned twice a day. Over 130 cats were housed in crates in Lloyd’s barn.

SPCA staff camped at the Wrights’ home, spending their days caring for the cats, answering phone calls, dealing with lost animals, and travelling back and forth to Salmon Arm. Evenings were spent on the porch comparing notes on the day. BCTV paid us a visit and we made the Vancouver news.

When the danger was downgraded, owners happily collected their pets. The SPCA cats were packed up and returned to the shelter, as a CHBC crew filmed the event for the evening news.

An odd post script to the events… the day after we returned home, I got up in the morning to the strong smell of gas on the patio. It seems workers in town had hit a gas main and the downtown core had to be evacuated.

Jeanette Clement
SPCA Volunteer

Photo credit in order of appearance:
1. James Murray, Salmon Arm Observer, 1998
2. Pete Wise, c.2015
3. Dee Ferguson, c. 2008
4. Jeanette Clement, c. 1998