Norbert Bangert and Angela Holtmann during their visit to western Canada in 2016. The couple read about the fire in the Ashcroft/Cache Creek area, which they visited in 2016, and wanted to help out.

Norbert Bangert and Angela Holtmann during their visit to western Canada in 2016. The couple read about the fire in the Ashcroft/Cache Creek area, which they visited in 2016, and wanted to help out.

News of Ashcroft fire reaches around the world

A German couple who visited the area last year wanted to help in any way they could.

Messages of support for the area have been pouring in steadily since the Ashcroft Reserve fire broke out on July 6 and quickly spread through the region, destroying buildings and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people.

On July 11, The Journal received a message of support from far away. The message read “Dear ladies and gentlemen: We read about the wildfire in Ashcroft and Cache Creek. These two towns we visited in 2016. We want to help the citizens, but we are living in Europe. So, we want to give money, but we don’t know which organisations are the best. Can you give us some information about fundraising?

“Best regards, Angela Holtmann and Norbert Bangert.”

The Journal responded and suggested the Canadian Red Cross, which is accepting donations for wildfire victims. Holtmann and Bangert replied and said that not only had they donated to the Canadian Red Cross, they were urging all their European friends to do so as well.

“I can tell you, that the donation is underway. We gave money to the Red Cross.

“If there is a chance to help the people in the reserve and the small destroyed area between Cache Creek and Ashcroft, please let us know. We also made a donation call via Facebook to our friends in Germany and Europe.

“Please send greetings to Mrs. Terry Daniels. We met her during our visit in 2016 as we visited the editors’ building. I was interested in Canadian newspaper history and had written a small text about The Journal. She had shown us the editorial offices and the old printing shop and the safe.

“Best regards, and be careful. Angela Holtmann and Norbert Bangert.”

The Journal reached out to Holtmann and Bamgert by email, to find out more about what prompted their visit to our area, what they thought of it, and their reaction to news of the fire.

Bangert, a historian and journalist, and Holtmann, a mathematician, had heard from friends about their holidays and experiences in western Canada; particularly that it had a very beautiful and impressive nature. “We were curious about British Columbia and Alberta,” wrote Holtmann. “I had been to Vancouver and Banff in 2004, so I knew parts of the region.”

Their 2016 trip started in Vancouver. The couple travelled to Vancouver Island, then made their way to the Rocky Mountains.

“On our way from Hope to Ashcroft and Cache Creek [where they visited from September 5 to 7, 2016] we had the opportunity to drive on the Trans-Canada Highway along the Fraser River, the Thompson River, and the railroad.” Much of the landscape was unfamiliar to them, especially the sparse and wide landscape, the long trains, the colour of the river, and the ranches.

“We appreciated the historic walking tour in Ashcroft very much, which included visiting the museum (and its archive) and the Journal building. We also liked the park in Cache Creek.” They were unable to visit the museum in Walhachin, as it was closed, but stopped at Kamloops Lake and took pictures.

“Most impressive were the historic walking tour in Ashcroft, the generally dry nature—although it rained a bit when we were visiting—and the friendliness and helpfulness of the people we met in the bakery, the museum, and at The Journal.”

Their trip was originally planned as a “travel through”, although the couple ended up staying two nights at a campground in Cache Creek. “We did not have any big expectations of the towns themselves whatsoever, and would just like to explore them. We were quite astonished at the big gathering of historic buildings and the atmosphere in a small town like Ashcroft. We did not expect the nice Heritage Park. It was a big contrast in architecture and dimensions, compared to Vancouver and other cities we had visited before. Also, we did not know any other town of that size with such a ‘quadratic’ street pattern.”

The couple read about the wildfires in the area on German-language Facebook groups devoted to travelling through Canada, where some people were worried about their travel plans. People were also sharing links to news articles about the wildfires.

“We started reading the online articles from The Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal regularly. The pictures were terrifying, and we were concerned about the people and the area, because our visit was just last year and many memories were brought back.

“We would like to tell the people that they are thought of, even by those who are seemingly living far away, but do empathise because of the people’s hospitality and friendliness. There are some tourists who just drive through, but also others who are interested in the people and try to help in the current situation. If concrete help is needed, people in the area should notify the public about what can be done.

“Best regards. Angela Holtmann and Norbert Bangert.”