Submitted photo Sue and Jim Carlson lost their home near Big Creek to the Hanceville-Riske Creek fire on July 9. The Big Creek community is hosting a fundraiser open to everyone on Feb. 17 to help the couple at the Big Creek Community Hall.

Big Creek rallies around family who lost home to wildfire

Community will be hosting a dinner and auction fundraiser Feb. 17

Big Creek is known for being a tightly- knit community. This year they’ve proved that beyond a doubt.

After two members of the community lost their home to the same wildfire that consumed Lee’s Corner, the community has decided to host a potluck, and auction of new and used items at the Big Creek Community Hall on Feb. 17.

All the money raised will be given to Jim and Sue Carlson.

“It’s something we all want to do because if it was one of us we’d want to do it,” said Trena Plummer, one of the organizers.

Jim and Sue Carlson’s house and home of 36 years was near the Chilco Ranch.

On July 7, Sue recalls seeing the thunder cloud approaching the area.

“I heard the thunder and saw the plumes of smoke come up and watched it on and off throughout the day,” she said.

They stayed at home that night, which was the night that Lee’s Corner burned.

The next day, Jim was out helping other people as the fire approached, while Sue stayed home to gather her important papers.

The couple spent the night in Big Creek at Duck Lake. Sue said that Jim, who couldn’t sleep that night, got up and went back to their place to move things.

He also works part time at the Chilco Ranch, and, as the fire approached the buildings there he went there to help.

“On Sunday afternoon, we knew it was coming close,” said Sue. It was only two days after the fire had begun.

The two collected their horses and their dog, moved what equipment they could into a recently watered pasture, and left.

They knew what had happened. The fire had gotten into some old growth fir near their place and was moving quickly, “candling and swirling” according to Sue.

While Sue didn’t actually see the fire hit their home, she knew.

“It was inevitable, and I didn’t want to watch,” said Sue. Jim stayed with the firefighters, and watched the buildings catch.

The fire hit their house, woodshed and guest cabin, all of which were uninsured.

Still, Sue mentions the positives.

“We’re just so thankful that no lives were lost and nobody got hurt. We are thankful for what we did get.”

The couple spent the next few days at Duck Lake and then moved to Chilco Ranch until mid October, when they were offered a place on Fletcher Lake where they are now.

They’re hoping to rebuild in the spring.

While Sue said it’s been hard looking at what is left of their place, the people around them have been amazing.

“We’ve been overwhelmed at how generous people have been,” Sue said.

The Cariboo Community Church organized a work-bee and she said people from “several directions” came to help with the clean-up.

“I can’t say enough about the folks in Big Creek and the people at Chilco and Stone Reserve. People have just been so caring. I hesitate to start naming because I know I would miss people. There have been a lot of people who have been so kind and helpful.”

The couple said they were reluctant at first when someone broached the idea of a dinner and auction.

“We’re used to looking after things ourselves and helping. It’s hard to be on the other end of it,” she said. “That’s something that we are learning through this experience. That you have to let people help you.”

The Carlsons said they have felt rootless, without the home they’d raised their children in.

“It’s hard to remember where you put things because you don’t have the familiar place you put them,” she said with a chuckle.

Still, she said having things to do, and now a long-term home to stay in is helpful. They have access to the lake for cross country skiing and they’re settling into a routine.

“Everyone, everyone suffered this summer,” she said. “Not just those of us who lost a place. I think about the people who wondered, day after day, is it going to hit us. We knew the second day. Maybe it was easier for us to move ahead.”

She also said that their faith in God helped them stay strong throughout.

After everything, the couple are looking forward to going home again.

“I’m looking forward to having a place of our own. It seems like a huge thing as we weren’t intending to start over again, but one step at a time it will come together.”

Everyone is welcome to the dinner and auction on Saturday, Feb. 17, said Plummer.

Dinner begins at 6 p.m. so she encourages people to come a little before then.

If you’re unable to make it, or are wondering how you can help, Plummer is also accepting donations of items, new, used and homemade items, or just cash at Lake City Central Equipment in Williams Lake.

For more information you can give Plummer a call at 250-394-4447 or Colleen at 250-394-4645.


A view southwest from the Hanceville lookout. Angie Mindus photo A view southwest from the Hanceville lookout. Angie Mindus photo

Helicopters use the Chilcotin River as a water source during the wildfires out west July 13, 2017. Angie Mindus photo Helicopters use the Chilcotin River as a water source during the wildfires out west July 13, 2017. Angie Mindus photo

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