Notebook pages with notes about the first two days of the Elephant Hill wildfire in 2017.

The Editor’s Desk: Farewell to a faithful friend

It’s been a daily companion for nearly two years, but a battered notebook nears the end

I’m about to say goodbye to a dear friend, one that has been at my side almost every day for a little under two years. It’s a spiral-bound notebook, and nothing special to look at, especially as during that time it’s been battered around rather a lot: the cover is very close to coming off entirely, so it’s likely that it would have been retired soon anyway. But there are only three or four blank pages left in it, so I’m pretty sure I can nurse it along until the end of the year.

In it are notes for stories and interviews going back to early 2017; the first notes relate to an interview with Miles Marziani, the CAO of QuestUpon, about the augmented reality tour of Ashcroft the company was developing. Flipping through those early pages, I come across the Rotary Citizens of the Year for 2017, Skip’s Run, an interview with Kathey Johnson about the need for volunteers for Soup’s On, a Lions Club cheque presentation to Better At Home, and more; stories about the normal events that are the fabric of our communities.

Then come the notes I made during the memorial service for Cache Creek fire chief Clayton Cassidy on June 3, 2017; a reminder that sometimes that fabric is torn by tragedy. I wish this were not the case, and that that was an isolated incident, but as I flip ahead a few pages, through more prosaic entries (the McAbee fossil beds, the Health Care Auxiliary and its Thrift Store, the story of four local women graduating from an Early Childhood Education course), I am brought up short once again.

There is an entry headed “Belly dance display 6 July”, with a description of the recital that evening and an interview with Denise Tapia. I flip the page, and the right hand page starts with notes from an interview with then-Interior Health chair Chris Mazurkewich. I interviewed him on the morning of July 7, 2017, and although I recorded the interview, I made notes as we talked. There is a line underneath the half-page of notes, and the next entry, entirely in capital letters, reads “EVAC CTR NOW AT OLD MAIN HALL TRU 866-377-7188”.

I turn the page, and am confronted with a series of notes. The first is about misinformation surrounding the state of the area in the immediate aftermath of the Elephant Hill wildfire (“Heard yesterday that CC was burned to the ground, that CC firefighters had been evacuated (while they were fighting the fire) (they weren’t); death at Boston Flats.”).

There are notes from an interview with then-Ashcroft mayor Jack Jeyes (“On behalf of council & the citizens of Ash I want to address the events that have happ in our comm in the last 3 days”), information from RCMP Sgt. Kathleen Thain (“Town of CC completely safe at this time – rumours of town on fire – no threat to town at this time”), and information about where evacuated residents should go, with contact information.

For the next 66 pages all the notes, with only one or two exceptions, are about stories related to the 2017 wildfires. The story about the Belly Dance recital on July 6, which had already been written, did not appear until September 19. The interview with Mazurkewich never got written.

The notebook gradually returns to normal, but the impact of the fires continues to be felt: putting together the 2018 “Year in Review” stories, I am reminded again and again, in article after article, what a profound impact the fires had on our region, and will continue to have. Many of the stories I wrote over the course of 2018 were because of the wildfires of a year earlier, either directly or indirectly, and I expect to write more of the same in 2019.

My battered notebook contains it all: the highs and the lows of almost two years in our communities. I’ll be sad to retire it, but look forward to starting 2019 with a literal clean sheet. Here’s hoping to better times.

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