Two women who coordinated equine evacuation centers during the 2017 wildfire season have been named as the Horse Council of BC Volunteer of the Year.
Lana Shields of Williams Lake was at work on July 7, 2017 when lightning sparked fires ignited throughout the area.
She says being the caretaker at the Stampede Grounds at the time she put the message out on Facebook if anyone needed a place for their horses to bring them down.
“It ended up in about four days we had over 300 horses come through there. I kept a journal and had people helping me and we had people dropping off water tubs, panels, and hay. It was unbelievable how the town just came together and helped out.”
As the fire situation escalated with the City of Williams Lake being put on an evacuation alert, Shields phoned barrel racing friend Chelsea Wallach who was also awarded the 2017 HCBC Bob James Volunteer Award.
“I just said hey we need to get these horses out of here, and are you able to get some girls and trailers together, and she was on it. It was like an assembly line, and we had horses coming in and as fast as we were bringing them in all the girls and all the people from Prince George were loading them in trailers and getting them back to Prince George to safety. It was a matter of a bunch of people working together to make sure the horses were safe.”
Asked if she would organize such efforts again, Shields said that she absolutely would and notes that she has been asked by other Northern communities to discuss her efforts.
“One hundred percent and I would do it better because I learned by what we did and what we didn’t do that was right and the way to do things. If something like that happened again I’d be the first person back down there on the grounds to things started,” she says.
“It can happen anywhere. I hope we never have to help somebody else but there’s a good chance that one day we’ll be on the other end helping people out.”