One of the four firefighters killed in a highway crash near Cache Creek this week was from the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
Jaxon Billyboy-Bowe was 19 and had just graduated in June 2023 from Skyline in Williams Lake.
A firefighter with Tomahawk Ventures, Jaxon was travelling home in a pickup truck early in the morning on Highway 1 east of Cache Creek when it collided head-on with a semi-truck on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
They had been aiding with firefighting efforts in the Fort St. James area, said his father Sheldon Bowe.
“He was loving and caring always about his family and siblings,” Bowe said.
Bowe said his son had five sisters, one brother, as well as family and friends on all the reserves in the region.
“My grandfather was Secwepemc and my grandmother was Tsilhqot’in.”
A hard worker, Jaxon enjoyed working in the bush and getting firewood.
“He wanted to work hard and he wanted to prove to himself that he could do it,” Sheldon said, adding that is why his son wanted to be a firefighter.
About one year ago, Jaxon ended up in the hospital on life support after taking drugs.
Jaxon was having a hard time with his lungs afterwards so Sheldon was worried about him going into firefighting.
“He was doing lots of walking and stuff and worked himself up so he did get hired and he made it through the summer.”
Jaxon overcame lots of adversity and trauma, Bowe said, noting his son’s childhood friend was Richie Todd, who died from stab wounds in May 2022 in Williams Lake.
“He had a lot of resilience for a young man to get up and keep striving forward.”
Bowe said he takes comfort knowing his son became a firefighter and that he did not die from drugs and alcohol.
“I am actually proud because he did what he wanted to do and achieved lots that others never will. I was happy for that and am hoping his friends will follow the same lead to strive forward.”
Jaxon didn’t quit, he added.
“He had a lot he could have quit for and he didn’t.”
Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse said Jaxon was a member of his community and he was disheartened to hear of his death.
“He was a young kid trying to stay on the right path of life. He was fighting fires and very proud of that.”
Alphonse said Jaxon was a young role model coming into his own and an example for community members.
“It’s a tough time right now for the family,” he said. “It’s a sad end to the season. It was probably the last fire they were going to fight and the last trip home. He never made it home. It’s devastating.”
Alphonse also offered his condolences to all the families of the firefighters killed in the crash.
Bowe said deaths of the four firefighters has had an impact on many Indigenous communities in the province.
As a young kid, Jaxon watched Finding Nemo a million times, his dad said.
“The first time he saw it at the end he was all sad and crying. I was thinking ‘what the?’ I was surprised. I kept him in my life as much as possible. I went through a lot of stuff with him.”
With a file from Canadian Press