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Cariboo Cattlemen’s president gives birth while Williams Lake hospital was being evacuated July 8

When Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association president Cordy Cox went into labour on July 7 Cariboo Memorial Hospital was in the process of evacuating patients because of wildfire threats in the region.

When Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association president Cordy Cox went into labour on July 7 Cariboo Memorial Hospital was in the process of evacuating patients because of wildfire threats in the region.

“It’s a good thing I’m a cattleman and 35 years old,” Cox told the Tribune from Chilliwack where she evacuated to get away from the smoke with her newborn Harlow Wade Ellis. “It has been a bit of a wild ride.”

Cox and her husband Clint Ellis own Dane Ranch/Ellis Cattle Company at Tatla Lake, she was elected president of the Cattlemen’s in February and she serves as a director with the B.C. Livestock Producers Co-operative.

When the Kleena Kleene wildfire forced the evacuation of livestock from their ranch, they arranged for the cattle to be moved to their other ranch at Anahim Lake.

Two weeks before Harlow was born, Cox had been riding horses and working full-time at the ranch.

On Friday July 7, Clint drove up to Williams Lake and around 2:30 p.m. they were driving into Williams Lake and it looked like “quite the lightning storm.”

“They admitted me into the hospital and the fires had started.,” Cox said. “From my room in the maternity ward I could see the fire up on Fox Mountain.”

At first things were OK in the hospital, but she began to notice quite a bit of hustling and bustling outside of her room.

“My doctor came in and told me I might have to evacuate and that there were fires on Fox Mountain, at Spokin Lake and 150 Mile. They decided to try and speed up my labour so they broke my water telling me I probably would not want to be in an ambulance on my way to Prince George in heavy labour.”

In the meantime Cox was on the phone talking with BC Cattlemen’s president Kevin Boon trying to figure out how they could help ranchers who were being told they had to evacuate.

At 4:06 a.m. Saturday, July 8 she delivered naturally with assistance from three doctors and four nurses.

“There were only a few patients left in the hospital,” Cox said. “The maternity staff was absolutely incredible. There was one nurse whose neighbourhood was being evacuated and she was trying to help me have a baby. She didn’t even know if her cat was OK.”

By 10 a.m. Saturday morning, the nurses were telling her she had to evacuate.

“At first they told me I would have to go by ambulance to Prince George and Clint would drive his pickup and bring Harlow in a car seat, but I told them I was not going to do that.”

Eventually her doctor, who agreed with her, came back and said she wasn’t going to have to go north.

He discharged her and said she was good to go home to their house in Williams Lake which they did 14 hours after Harlow was born.

“We decided to leave Williams Lake because of the smoke,” Cox said. “We also thought if they closed the roads we would have an even further drive if we waited.”

Cox said many ranchers in the Cariboo-Chilcotin chose not to leave because when the fires took off there were no official resources on them at first and so many ranches were directly threatened.

“Some of those fires were travelling at a rate of 40 kilometres an hour the day they evacuated people.”

Many of the ranchers that have been impacted are large cow/calf producers and the financial loss will be massive, Cox said.

“It’s not just about dead cattle, they have lost fall ranges and pastures, hay barns and hay fields. They will have to buy or find feed and many of the fences have been burned. Some have lost homes and outbuildings and are in really bad shape. These fires are very devastating to the ranching industry.”

As for the decision to stay behind that some ranchers have made, Cox said ranchers are practical and know when to get out.

“Someone had to be there to move the animals and I think that some of the authorities did not know how to deal with the ranchers. It is unprecedented to have so many fires in such close proximity. The Cariboo Regional District has never been in a situation where they have had to evacuate so many people”

Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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