Devastated Shuswap residents staying in Calgary realize their homes have been lost to fire

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Devastated Shuswap residents staying in Calgary realize their homes have been lost to fire
A heartbreaking reality is setting in for people who have lost their homes to wildfires in the Shuswap region of B.C. Countless fled to cities and towns across the country to find refuge with family. Jill Croteau spoke to those staying in Calgary who are devastated and feeling abandoned by officials – Aug 22, 2023

A home where countless memories were created has been reduced to rubble. It’s a heartbreaking reality for Kevin and Julie Matiowsky who say the last few days have been hard to cope with.

“I’m thankful for those memories, but it was my life,” Julie said.

On Friday the couple were forced to leave their lakefront home in Celista, a community on the north shores of Shuswap lake.

They are staying in Calgary with family. They have little left — only a handful of totes sentimental treasures they managed to grab. They never expected it to be consumed by the Scotch Creek wildfire.

The Matiowsky’s staying with family in Calgary. Jill Croteau/Global News

“As we drove out of the driveway I looked back and said: ‘Don’t go anywhere, we will see you in two weeks,'” Julie said.

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Her optimistic goodbye was fleeting.

“A neighbor sent us a video and I was able to see the outline of our house. I recognized it by landmarks and that was our home fully engulfed,” Kevin said.

Their home before the fire. Courtesy: Julie Matiowsky
Their home after the fire. Courtesy: Julie Matiowsky

The couple started a fundraiser to support them until the can find a new home in Calgary.

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“I don’t want to remember my home the way it is. I want to remember what we had,” Julie said.

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They say they’re frustrated with a lack of help from officials and their refusal to allow through supplies to those who remain in their neighborhood.

“I understand their protocols (but) you got to put the rule book away and utilize resources, but they won’t let them in,” Kevin said. “We have volunteer firefighters out there and all those guys are trying to keep the community and the whole lake from burning.”

The nearby community of Squilax, about 30 kilometers west of Shuswap, has also been destroyed by fire. Brandon Fairweather said he and his family own two homes in the neighborhood. He said he had seconds to get out.

“I got three loads and before we knew it, threw the dogs in we had no time to do anything ,” Fairweather said.

Taylor Bochek lives two doors down from Fairweather. The home is gone.

“I have a lot of emotions and adrenaline. We were rushed out of there pretty quick,” Bochek said.

Brandon Fairweather and Taylor Bochek. Jill Croteau/Global News

She lived with Fairweather’s brother and his father. The home wasn’t insured because they were were waiting to do so after building an addition.

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This is the second time their home was destroyed by fire. A few years ago, a wiring issue burned their home down. The family launched a gofundme in hopes of getting support.

“It (was) hard when it happened the first time and then you lose it all again,” Bochek said.

But even as they process what’s gone, they’re ready to return to rebuild.

“We are all alive so that’s all you can really be grateful for.”


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