A blanket ceremony and dinner, to honour the firefighters currently fighting the wildfire at Davis Lake in Mission, was held Thursday night (July 20) at Chawathil First Nation’s gymnasium.
Organized by First Nation Health Authority (FNHA), Chawathil was contacted on Monday (July 17) by Terrie Davidson, the Boothroyd Band’s Health Director, who asked if they would be willing to host an Acknowledgement Dinner for the Trail Blazers, who are currently fighting the 215 hectares large fire. Despite the short notice, Chawathil quickly organized the event and had the space prepared for the more than 100 people who attended.
“I just want to echo earlier words that I appreciate all the firefighters and the first responders, and helicopter pilots,” Davidson said. “This goes out not only to the men and women here, but it goes out to all the firefighters. And to all their families who are at home, praying and sending out protection for their sons and daughters. Every night I pray to the Creator for each of you to be safe, that you go home to your mother, father, and all of your siblings.
“And I hope you bring this powerful medicine with you, that we share with you tonight, and always keep a clear mind in the field, in the wilderness.”
The Trail Blazers are one of the BC Wildfire Service crews, with at least five of the 50 firefighters from Boothroyd. As of Sunday afternoon (July 23), there are currently 26 Coastal Fire Centre personnel and one helicopter on the scene of the Davis Lake fire. The wildfire, which is believed to be human caused, remains out of control and a fire of note.
Starting at 8 p.m, when the firefighters entered the gym — many still covered in soot from the wildfire, which they came straight from — the brave men and women (along with those in attendance to witness the ceremony) were provided a dinner of salmon, rice, bread, garden salad, potato salad, and fresh fruit and cake for dessert.
Once their bellies were full, a drumming ceremony, to welcome the firefighters, took place, followed by a blanket ceremony to honour and protect them. Each member of the fire crew was draped in a blanket and, led by the drummers, walked around the gym. This was done to “show off” the firefighters, and to show they were being honoured, respected, and protected, to those in attendance.
For the first time in Chawathil’s history, the ceremony was also virtual; the event was streamed so that firefighters all throughout B.C., as well as outside in B.C. (like the men and women fighting wildfires in Alberta), could virtually attend and still receive spiritual “medicine” and protection from the ceremony.
After the blanket ceremony, more speeches took place acknowledging the firefighters and all the work they were doing. One of these speakers was George Campbell, a Trail Blazers firefighter and leader, who spoke on behalf of BC Wildfire. During his speech, Campbell, with much emotion in his voice, acknowledged 19-year-old BC Wildfire firefighter Devyn Gale who passed away on July 13 while fighting the wildfire near Revelstoke.
To honour Gale, First Nation Health will be sending a blanket to her family.
“I really appreciate this,” Campbell said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to Devyn Gale’s family. This is part of why this was important for me, to do this, for our fallen sister.
“And it’s tough. It’s not easy being part of the BC Wildfire Service. And I just want to say thanks to each and every one of you (firefighters) for sacrificing your summers, being away from your family, putting yourself at risk and your life on the line. Because that was what Devyn was doing. And I really appreciate each and every one of you.
As of July 18, there are at least 391 active fires burning in B.C., with a total of 1183 wildfires (since April 1) having burnt a total of 1.39 million hectares. Due to these fires, at least 150 people are under evacuation orders and 3400 people are under an evacuation alert in the northwest, northeast, and Cariboo regions of the province.