It was during their third evacuation that Pat and Lorraine Jasper of XJ Ranch in Riske Creek lost their home to the Bald Mountain fire this summer.
Pat was at a neighbours helping them fight a grass fire on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 12 when his brother Mike arrived to tell him they needed to leave because the Bald Mountain fire south of them was coming rapidly toward their property.
“The fire came to our place at about three in the afternoon,” Pat said. “We were there until half an hour before (the fire came) trying to get everything out.”
Leaving sprinklers on the tin roof of their double-wide trailer and on two containers in the yard, they packed 50 head of sheep and put two horses into a stock trailer.
Their daughter Arlene Cunningham and a friend grabbed their border collies and cats.
Forced to leave 20 chickens and a rooster behind, they drove away.
Stopping further down the road they watched the fire spread, not knowing what would be left when it was all over.
The next morning, Pat’s brother Mike went to check on their place. He heard the rooster crow and when he opened the door to the chicken house, the chickens were fine and had been laying eggs, Lorraine said.
Aside from losing the double-wide trailer, they lost a barn, two sheds and an older house on the property that no one was living in.
Pat and Lorraine have lived at the Jasper homestead for 26 years and are determined to rebuild.
“This is a fifth generation property,” Lorraine said. “We want our children to be coming back and stay and to us it is very important to be keeping it in the family.”
While they had insurance, it is not quite enough to rebuild so in September their daughter, along with Terry Jasper and Becky Waterhouse organized a fundraiser at Terry’s place in Chimney Valley where people from all over came to show their support, enjoy a meal and barn dance together, and play some games.
The barn was crammed with auction items and enough food for the potluck to feed an army.
“We even brought a dozen of our survivor eggs for the auction,” Lorraine said.
Outside of the barn there was a “survivor” bench made for the couple by neighbours, Rita Rankin and Trena Plumber, in which there are some singed fencing boards from the wildfire.
After staying with their daughter for a few days, Pat and Lorraine were camping in a 36-foot trailer at Chilco Ranch where Pat works herding cattle and Lorraine commutes to her teaching job at Tl’etinqox School three days a week.
“We have found a winter home at another neighbour’s because the travel trailer will get too cold through the winter,” Lorraine said.
“There’s a chicken house there so we can take the chickens and we do have hay coming and when the new perimeter fencing is put, in we will be able to start feeding the horses there again.”
Leaning into Pat, Lorraine said it was difficult to lose some things in the fire such as family photographs, an antique writing desk and one of their cats that disappeared.
“Someone said something to me that I’ve repeated many times,” she said.
“Memories are forever until you get senile and then it doesn’t matter.”