When Williams Lake was put on evacuation alert Mandie Blusson started cooking and baking for the Williams Lake Fire Dept.
Her husband Nick West is a firefighter and she found that cooking and baking made her feel less helpless because it gave her something to do as the situation unfolded.
On Saturday, July 15 she evacuated north to Prince George with her children, but within a few days Fire Chief Des Webster called and asked Blusson if she would return to the lakecity to cook for the crews and said he’d arrange a permit for her.
Blusson then put her teenaged son on the plane to join his sisters in the Kootenays.
She arrived back in Williams Lake on Thursday, July 20 and has been spending long days in the kitchen at the fire hall ever since.
“They actually have a beautiful set up here at the fire hall,” she said during a phone interview Monday from the fire hall. “There’s an island, two big fridges and a big stove.”
Whether the menu has featured bacon and cheese frittatas, taco salad, camp-style cinnamon french toast, ribs or even beef pot pie made with leftovers from the night before, Blusson has been trying to serve hearty meals.
“Tonight we are having ham, scalloped potatoes and fresh bread.”
Once the evacuation order came down, all of the firefighters brought food in from home so there’d be ingredients to cook, she added.
The other day Safeway’s baker, who had not evacuated, got permission to let people come into the store between noon and 2 p.m. to get supplies if they are feeding others so that’s been great, Blusson said, noting one of the staff members at the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) was able to get into Wholesale Club to get some food as well.
Another time she was able to order some fruits, vegetables, bacon and sausages to be brought in by the DQ truck.
”At Safeway, they have to write out everything by hand because the tills are not up and running. More staff is supposed to be coming in today to get the system activated.”
Meals are served in a large dining hall in the fire hall where there are 10 long tables.
“They line up, get their food and then sit and eat,” she said of feeding the firefighters. “They’ve been doing all the dishes, helping put things away and cleaning up, which is great.”
Additionally, Blusson texts the EOC, which is housed downstairs in the hall, and the staff from there will come and eat as well.
Before Blusson was able to get back to Williams Lake, Barb Lutz and Amanda Tate were doing the cooking and now Loretta Ranftal, Chris and Carrie Thamerus have been helping her.
“Chief Des Webster and Deputy Chief Rob Warnock have been extremely supportive and encouraging all of us,” Blusson added.
As part of the fire hall auxiliary, Blusson has cooked at the fire hall before the wildfires.
“We will come in and cook for funerals or things like that to help out the department,” she said.
Blusson has called Williams Lake home since 2007.
Looking outside Monday afternoon from the roof top of the fire hall she told the Tribune it was a clear and beautiful blue sky day.
“I can see all the way down the lake one way and all the way out to West Fraser the other way,” she said.
Originally the firefighters were sleeping at the fire hall, sleeping on cots from the provincial government that were set up everywhere.
“On Sunday, Chief Webster said the firefighters could stay at home and answer to their pagers,” Blusson said.