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Ashcroft and Cache Creek fire departments make detachment commander an honorary member

Ashcroft fire chief Josh White also had a surprise in store.
Ashcroft Fire chief Josh White (left) and Cache Creek fire chief Tom Moe (right) present Sgt. Kathleen Thain with plaques indicating she is now an honorary member of both fire departments. Photo: Barbara Roden.

First responders from the area gathered at the Ashcroft fire hall for a dinner on September 9; but before they did, they had a surprise for Ashcroft Volunteer Fire Department (AVFD) chief Josh White, and during the event Ashcroft RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Kathleen Thain had a surprise of her own.

White said he wanted to make the dinner happen because of everything that local first responders—firefighters, RCMP, and BC Ambulance Service personnel—and the volunteers who support them have been through this year; but White and Cache Creek Volunteer Fire Department (CCVFD) chief Tom Moe both hope the dinner can become a regular event.

“We’ve had no time to slow down and breathe,” said Moe. “I hope it can become an annual or semi-annual event. Our first responder communities are so close now.”

The communities have, in quick succession, dealt with flooding in Cache Creek; the search for Cache Creek fire chief Clayton Cassidy, who perished during the floods; and the Elephant Hill wildfire, which devastated the Ashcroft Indian Reserve and Boston Flats Trailer Park, threatened Ashcroft, and forced the evacuation of Cache Creek.

At the dinner Thain—who became detachment commander in Ashcroft in October 2016—was made the 37th honorary member of the AVFD, and the first honorary member of the CCVFD. “It’s for the extra efforts she’s put in over the last four months,” said Moe. “She brought us even closer with what the RCMP does, working as a team.”

“She came home a week early from her holidays [after the Elephant Hill wildfire started on July 7],” noted White. “She’s a fantastic person, and very worthy. She brings to the table what we’d look for in a firefighter.”

Thain said that “unofficially” she had an idea something would be happening down the line, but that she didn’t know what that would be. She said she knows what giving this honour means to the firefighters, and that it’s very humbling for her.

“They’ve had a tough year,” she noted. “I haven’t even been here a year, so to be recognized like that makes me even tighter with the community. Out of tragedy comes good, and things like this go a long way. It was one of those speechless moments.

“Everyone has worked so hard. They all had my back, especially during the search for Clayton. I have a family here now. I have brothers and sisters. If they call me in the middle of the night, I’ll be there. We see and do so much as first responders, and sometimes they’re things we can’t share in our private life. To be able to share these things, and laugh and joke, makes it easier to go home.

“To be honoured like this by the two fire departments will be a highlight of my career. It’s very special.”

Earlier in the day White had returned home from an overnight visit in Lillooet to see his mother-in-law, and was astounded to see that a new fence had been erected around his back yard during his absence. An Ashcroft firefighter explained to The Journal that back in May, while volunteers were helping tend to firefighters’ lawns as they searched for Clayton Cassidy, it was noted that White’s back yard fence was in a sad state.

“Josh is always so busy for everybody else that he hadn’t had time to repair it,” said the firefighter. “So we decided to use members of the Ashcroft and Cache Creek fire departments to tear it down and build a new one.”

AVFD captain Jonah Anstett organized a secret fundraiser for the purchase of new materials, and deputy chief Steve Anderson of Ashcroft Home Hardware gave them the needed materials at cost. NGN Sales and Service donated the use of an auger to dig the fence post holes, and Godau and Sons loaned a small backhoe for the clearing and levelling.

White’s wife Tovah—who was privy to the plan—arranged for Josh to be out of town starting on September 8. Some of White’s neighbours, as well as former Ashcroft firefighter Jagr Mazurkewich, who now lives in Kamloop, spent seven hours prepping the site by tearing down the old fence and clearing and levelling the yard, and in the evening Ashcroft firefighters dug the fencepost holes and put up the framework and three gates.

On September 9, firefighters from Cache Creek and Ashcroft finished putting the fence together, then cleared everything up and took the old material to the transfer station.

During the dinner, White thanked all those who went to his house and put up a new fence, calling them “wonderful”, then added—tongue firmly in cheek—“I’m going to have you all charged with trespassing.” Speaking with The Journal, he said he’d had no clue whatsoever about what was afoot.

“I had an inkling something was up in early June; then the fires started up, and I got distracted. I was shocked, surprised, and a little emotional when I saw it.”

Barbara Roden