Bev Atkins worked in forestry for 40 years in the Cariboo Chilcotin, and is now enjoying retirement. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Bev Atkins (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Bev Atkins worked in forestry for 40 years in the Cariboo Chilcotin, and is now enjoying retirement. (Rebecca Dyok photo) Bev Atkins (Rebecca Dyok photo)

HOMETOWN: Bev Atkins reflects on forestry career

“I don’t see a need to leave the Cariboo”

A willingness to try something new led a Williams Lake woman to enjoy a 40-year plus career in forestry.

“That was a good way to finish my career,” Bev Atkins recalled of her retirement from the BC Wildfire Service in December of 2018.

Launching a career path in a primarily male-dominated industry was no piece of cake, but Atkins has never been one to back away from a challenge.

While forestry did not initially interest Atkins, who grew up at her family homestead in Meldrum Creek, she knew she did not want to leave the area to become a teacher.

After graduating high school in 1976, Atkins was enrolled in the Vancouver-based Native Indian Teacher Education Program and completed the first two years through correspondence in Williams Lake.

“I learned a lot and enjoyed it, but when we had to move to campus in Vancouver, I got cold feet,” she said.

Atkins instead married her husband, Spencer, and said six months after their wedding knew she had to do something.

“Being that I was raised on a farm, being outdoors was a natural fit for me,” she said, noting she had previously worked as a summer student with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Read More: Displaced Interior forestry workers access support programs

Read More: Approaches to forestry can help fight climate change: FESBC executive director

At 22-years-old she applied at the local forestry office in Williams Lake.

“The first day in the bush was trying to follow him [a workmate] along the steep banks along the Fraser River out past the Ashtray,” she said.

“It was a good thing he had a dog because the dog kept running back to check on me.”

Despite describing forestry as the school of hard knocks, Atkins said there was a strong sense of family and eagerness for people to teach and mentor others in the learn as you go field in which you had to be ready for anything.

Women were often outnumbered but did make up most silviculture crews which Atkins was a part of.

She said it was in 1982 when they had started to ask why women could not be further involved in roles such as fire response officers.

“We pushed our way through and challenged the process and got to do those things,” Atkins said.

“It wasn’t for the faint of heart, and while we were supported, we stood for what we wanted, and we did it.”

After taking some time to travel, Atkins would work as a small forestry consultant before heading to UBC’s Alex Fraser Research Forest in Williams Lake as a silviculture administrator, where she spent 15-years.

After UBC downsized its staff, Atkins would venture to do new roles with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural, Resource Operations and Rural Development, such as First Nation engagement, and BC Timber Sales in 2005.

Read More: Museum exhibit, Cariboo Strong, shares stories, experiences through 2017 wildfires

Always on the lookout for something new to broaden her experiences, Atkins took up the opportunity in 2011 to work with BC Wildfire Service.

As wildfires raged across the Cariboo-Chilcotin region in an unprecedented summer of 2017, Atkins served as a logistics chief, ensuring everything from catering, accommodation, security and equipment was looked after.

“In 2017, we pulled a 16 or 17-hour shift, which we don’t typically do, but that’s where we were,” she said.

More than 1.2 million hectares were burned in B.C.

Before retiring, Atkins worked as a wildfire prevention officer assisting local governments with fire mitigation projects within their communities.

Currently, she volunteers with the Red Cross health equipment loan program and is approved to serve as a Red Cross emergency response supervisor in any world crisis.

“After 2017, the whole Cariboo proved how resilient we are, and I think through all of the trauma we get in these big diaster events, there’s resilience, and I’m not one to shy away from it, so it will be interesting if I get that call,” she said.

She is also a current volunteer with the Cariboo Chilcotin Elder College and is a member of its board of directors.

Read More: HAPHAZARD HISTORY: The Meldrum family and its legacy

Her husband is a labourer at West Fraser Plywood, and her brother lives at the Meldrum Creek homestead, which goes back to the late 1800s after lands were preempted by her great-grandfather, Thomas Meldrum who arrived in the Cariboo around the same time as pioneer William Pinchbeck.

Akins and a friend recently completed a sewing project in which they made pillow slips for 22-residents of Williams Lake Seniors Village, in which her mother resides.

“I just don’t see a need to leave the Cariboo,” Atkins said. “I’ve got family here and lots of friends.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Williams Lake

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

Just Posted

Williams Lake First Nation provides a community COVID-19 update Friday, Jan. 15. (Williams Lake First Nation Facebook image)
Williams Lake First Nation Chief highlights importance of mental health amid COVID-19 outbreak

A time to be forgiving, sincere and loving, says Willie Sellars

Interior Health confirmed Friday, Jan. 15, there are now six staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 at Cariboo Memorial Hospital. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
UPDATE: Six Cariboo Memorial Hospital staff members test positive for COVID-19

Interior Health said Friday, Jan. 15 testing is ongoing

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

The worker who tested positive was en route to the Mine Site near Wells. (BGM Map)
Wells mining company detects second positive COVID-19 case of 2021

The employee, who is asympomatic, had no known contact with Wells or Quesnel

Cale Murdock, 23, has been training with the Williams Lake Blue Fins and is hoping for an opportunity to compete at the Canadian Olympic Trials in April in Toronto, depending on whether they still take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Blue Fins swimmer Cale Murdock preparing for Canadian Olympic Trials in April

Cale Murdock was selected as one of the top 20 swimmers in the country in his events to attend

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

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

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality