Mark Hamm has lived and worked in the Cariboo since 1982 when he took a summer job, which turned into a permanent position with the BC Forest Service, and said he loves the area, the people and volunteering in the community. (Greg Sabatino photo)

Mark Hamm has lived and worked in the Cariboo since 1982 when he took a summer job, which turned into a permanent position with the BC Forest Service, and said he loves the area, the people and volunteering in the community. (Greg Sabatino photo)

OUR HOMETOWN: Mark Hamm making a difference in the community

“It was really tough on the people working at the fire centre through all of that,” Hamm said

A summer job in 1977 in the Cariboo turned into a permanent stay for now retired ministry of forests worker Mark Hamm.

Hamm’s laundry list of credentials and accolades extend into many facets of Cariboo life, including as a volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society, a fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, work with Indigenous youth through restorative justice, a family man and, more recently, helping steer the city through the catastrophic 2017 wildfires as the Cariboo Fire Centre’s deputy manager.

His career with the ministry in the Cariboo happened by chance.

“I’d grown up in Nelson and started work in ‘77 with a summer job with the forest service, and moved here permanently in 1982 for another summer job and managed to stay on until getting a permanent position,” he said.

“The jobs I had were pretty interesting.”

During his first few years working in the Cariboo Hamm had the opportunity to travel by plane and helicopter over the area.

“Just seeing the whole area from the air: it’s so beautiful and the people here are open, welcoming, accepting — that was the big attraction for my wife, Jo Ann and I,” he said.

READ MORE: Current situation ‘unprecedented’

Hamm worked for the ministry from 1982 to 2019 when he retired following two historic years of wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

Reflecting on the 2017 wildfires, Hamm said prior to working as the CFC’s deputy manager he’d gained vast experience working for the wildfire protection branch, in forest health and helping to develop the Forest Practices Code of B.C. in years past. He also worked for several years helping build relationships with First Nations before getting into forest management.

“I credit Hugh Freeman: he was a major mentor for me while I was in protection, which was an operation up at the airport,” Hamm said. “He was good about laying out a goal and giving you just enough rope to not get into trouble. I learned a lot from him.”

On July 15, 2017, the City of Williams Lake was evacuated due to the threat of wildfires encroaching on the city.

“The hardest part was having to leave and take Jo Ann and then sit around in Kamloops before I came back to work,” he said.

Hamm said his job was to manage fire crews from in and out of province, including New Zealanders and Mexicans, making sure people doing the work on the ground had everything they needed to get the job done.

“It was really tough on the people working at the fire centre through all of that,” he said. “We were so stretched, and sometimes people would take it out on them, understandably, but everyone was so committed to doing their job well and the professionalism was outstanding.”

He noted Sharon MacDonald, who died after a battle with cancer in January of 2020, was an inspiration to him while working as a fire prevention officer during the wildfires.

“She was on a treatment regiment and she had to be really careful, and I just admired her so much,” he said. “She was facing a terminal diagnosis and catastrophic fires here but she would be there dawn til past dusk and did all she could. She was a major player.”

Outside of work, Hamm was a longtime member of the Cariboo Gold Community Band as a euphonium player, however, his own battle with throat cancer in the early 90s forced his retirement from the group.

“I really enjoyed that,” he said.

His volunteer work with the Canadian Cancer Society began shortly after.

Now, Hamm said he’s thoroughly enjoying working with Indigenous youth through legal aid writing Gladue Reports — a pre-sentencing and bail hearing report for an Indigenous offender — for the court.

READ MORE: Crews keep fires in the Cariboo manageable so far

“I got into it in 2010 when I was managing compliance and enforcement for the forest district … I saw how those companies weren’t malicious — they’d just made a mistake, and they wanted to repair the harm, and I thought restorative justice would be an alternative to that.”

He’s now seen the positive benefits of restorative justice first hand, he said, and how it has changed the lives of some youth he’s worked with. He said from Nov. 27-29 restorative justice will be hosting a free training clinic, including meals. If anyone is interested in attending and making a change in the community they can call him at 250-267-9233.

“I really love this community, and the Cariboo,” he said. “I would not consider moving away for retirement, and I hope to keep making a difference here in the time I have left.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Luke Lavigne of Clearwater is the 2020 recipient of the North Thompson Communities Foundation’s Donnie Nicholson Memorial Trades Bursary, and is shown here on Jan. 23 receiving the $1,500 cheque from NTCF treasurer Cheryl Thomas. (NTCF Facebook photo)
Clearwater’s Luke Lavigne awarded Donnie Nicholson Memorial Trades Bursary

Congratulations to Luke Lavigne of Clearwater, B.C., on the successful completion of… Continue reading

The Canadian Cancer Society Office located inside the Williams Lake Seniors Activity Centre closed its doors this month after being notified the CCS would be moving to regional offices located across Canada. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Canadian Cancer Society closes office in Williams Lake

“I didn’t realize how hard it would hit me when it actually closed down,” Allan said.

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Kelowna International Airport. —Image: Capital News file
Williams Lake medevac flight encounters drone at Kelowna International Airport

The airport is a no-drone zone to keep aircraft safe at all times

Williams Lake Community Policing Chair Baldish Singh Sunner. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake Community Policing request for increased funding denied

Council voted 4 to 3 in favour to keep it at $15,000 for one-year agreement

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read