The first person registered at the Princeton evacuee centre last Friday night was also the first person to lose her home to the out-of-control blaze.
Laila Bird, 81-years-old and a well-known local volunteer and personality, learned Tuesday morning that her home on Highway 5A had been severely damaged by the fire.
She was not informed through official channels, but saw a picture of her house on a neighbour’s phone, showing a caved in roof.
RDOS has confirmed damage to two houses.
The colorful and vibrant president of the Princeton Hospital Auxiliary seemed equal parts shaken and resolute after receiving the news.
She agreed to an interview with The Spotlight on the condition that “no one feels sorry for me. I will take support and friendship, though..and please make the story funny.”
Bird has been staying at a motel since she and her son William were hustled from their home Friday, shortly after the fire started.
She admitted to being a reluctant evacuee, and received several visits from Fortis BC and RCMP before packing up her dog, and her dog’s belongings, and driving to town.
She finally fled when an RCMP officer parked in her driveway and indicated he wasn’t leaving until she did.
“Well, when you are under attack, you want to attack back. I chose to do that with a sprinkler.”
Well-known for her wisdom and sense of humor, Bird remarked: “It’s very inconvenient to find a forest fire on your back steps. It’s a damned nuisance.”
(In a previous conversation with The Spotlight that was the same way she described having cancer.)
When asked to recall the possessions she grieved for most, she was at first stumped, then recollections came to her in starts.
The tomato plants and green peppers.
“Well, they’re gone.”
A pith helmet, a gift from many years ago.
“That might survive, pith helmets are quite strong you know.”
She escaped with no clothes, and explained she had just hung the laundry out when she was served with the evacuation order.
“It’s probably dry now, do you think?”
Personal photos and records are presumably lost, and she shrugged her shoulders.
She did regret, she admitted, forgetting to grab the batteries to her hearing aid.
“On the bright side, I am going to get a whole new wardrobe.”
When asked what she needs most now she answered: “A teapot, and toe nail clippers. I had a really wonderful pair of toenail clippers.”
Bird is unsure what she will do next, but she is relieved her home was insured, and she promised to rebuild.
“It is hard. It is stressful. But William and I are still here and the property is still there and Allison Creek is still running through it.
“People go through things. And they get over them. And we will too.”