LETTER: Yale firefighters go beyond the call of duty

A story of bravery from a catastrophic event

Editor’s Note: This January, the town of Yale experienced significant flooding. The following is a submitted story about how one community dealt with the deluge of rain and mud, by a resident of that community and printed with permission.

Good old Jack lives in a fifth-wheel trailer with Evelyn, his good friend and caregiver, at the All Hollow’s RV Park in Yale, B.C. He’s a hundred and two years old. His body shows a lot of wear and tear, but his mind is strong and sharp. And there’s still a remarkable sparkle in his eyes. He’s seen a lot in his long life, has good old Jack — both good and bad.

But, he never saw this one coming.

It’s two o’clock in the morning. Incessant January rains and an occasional snowstorm have saturated the cascade mountain ranges, seeping, deep below the crusty skin of the rock face. The creeks are overflowing, foaming white water races in a relentless rush and gushes into the mighty Fraser River below. The mountains swell and if you listen closely, you can hear an occasional ominous crack.

And then it happened. There’s a mighty rumble. The mountain shifts and begins to crumble.

Mud and debris slip and slide into the creeks. The foaming white water now turns blood brown, flowing fast and thick, tearing the rock apart, tumbling trees, overwhelming the culverts beneath the highway — man-made veins of steel busted apart by falling rock.

The mountain bleeds.

There is no way to stop the flow.

It’s early morning now. The dawn sheds a dim light on the devastation. The RV trailer where good old Jack lives took the brunt of a bad slice. Rock, silt and mud everywhere, three feet deep and rising.

There’s no doubt about it. Jack and Evelyn, along with a few other campers, have got to be evacuated.

It’s only going to get worse. Much worse.

But then! During that moment of madness, those few agonizing minutes of utter destruction and amid that lonely feeling of sheer hopelessness, they came.

Some leaving their breakfast, they saw, others on their way to work and they responded. Like true professionals, to lend a caring hand to all those people in need. These are the brave and battle-ready men and supportive women of the volunteer fire and rescue team of Yale, B.C.

They took a few minutes to evaluate the situation and then, sprung into action! Good old Jack was the first to go. They hoisted him, wheelchair and all and carried him out of his trailer. The shortest way to safety was blocked by rocks and boulders. They carried him the long way around, tripping over the broken shards of the landslide, slipping, sliding through the soft, sucking mud and wearily wading boot deep in the furious flow of flood water.

But they did it. Dry ground at last. Good old Jack was safe.

Thanks to the determination and dedication of the fire and rescue team. They then secured the area and took care of the other campers in need. Quite a commendable job, for volunteers! Way beyond the call of duty, and far above the love and care most men feel for their community.

Later that night, I went to see good old Jack at the Fort Yale Motel. He was staying there with Evelyn, wondering when he’d be able to return to his trailer. He was still sitting in his wheelchair, covered by two warm, woolly blankets, sipping contentedly on a cup of vanilla pudding.

We talked briefly about the rescue, which was not an easy thing to do, considering that good old Jack’s hearing is somewhat compromised and the furry hat he was wearing completely covered his ears and served as an insulator against any normal conversation.

What did you say? He asked again.

I said, “What did you think about the volunteer firemen who came to your rescue?”

He looked at me with a remarkable sparkle in his eye, and after a moment of inquisitive hesitation, he simply said: “They did a helluva job!”

That they did, Jack. You see, Jack’s a hundred and two years old and he’s seen a lot in his long life and there is absolutely no doubt about it. Good old Jack knows what he’s talking about.

A special thank you to the volunteer fire and rescue team from Yale, B.C.

Michael Gallivan

Yale

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