Bairy Marchuk planned to spend the weekend with his wife moving beds and furniture into the just-completed addition to their vacation home in Tulameen.
Instead, he made the drive from Chilliwack Saturday intent on sorting through the rubble left behind by a fire that completely destroyed his cabin, along with another Tulameen residence, Tuesday.
“It’s mind numbing,” he said in an interview with The Spotlight. “You don’t really understand what happened. You don’t fully comprehend it and you think it’s all just a dream or a nightmare.”
There were only three of twenty volunteer firefighters in Tulameen when the George Street blaze broke out about 9:45 a.m. Chief Jody Woodford was working in the fire hall – just one block from where the fire started – when she received the call.
“When I pulled up on the scene I screamed for help,” she said. “Anybody who showed up on the scene I put to work. The community worked together to control it so it didn’t get any bigger….It showed the community can get together and do what needs to be done.”
Woodford said residents worked side by side with volunteer firefighters from Tulameen and Princeton, RCMP and paramedics to control the fire. Residents donated portable water tanks and shuttled water from stand pipes to the scene. Through out the day approximately 40 people had a hand in “saving that part of the community,” she said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Woodford. It started in one structure on George Street, and due to winds and radiant heat exposure it spread to Marchuk’s home. A third home also received damages.
“We hit the fire as hard and fast as we could but water would only last for five minutes and then we would have to wait for more water.”
There is no official estimate yet on damages, although Marchuk puts his own losses at approximately $350,000.
His family purchased the home in 2002, and had just finished an expansion project that added three bedrooms, two bathrooms and extra living space. “It was 99.9 per cent complete.”
He said there was “tonnes of stuff” lost that his family considers irreplaceable. “It brings a tear to my eye….there’s lots of stuff you know, my wife’s dad’s snowshoes from when he was stationed up north in the armed forces, and a pair of skis and gifts. It just goes on and on.”
Marchuk said he plans to rebuild and will even “take a couple of rails off that weren’t totally destroyed so that we can incorporate them in the new place.”
He had nothing but praise for the Tulameen fire department. “The fire department in that little community just did an awesome job. They were apologizing for not being able to save it but what can you do?”