The story of a Princeton woman, one of only two people to lose a house to the forest fire now smouldering outside of town, touched and inspired people across British Columbia at a time when reports of tragedy and devastation were commonplace throughout the province.
A gofundme page was recently established for Laila Bird, after her family learned insurance will not cover all of her losses.
There is almost nothing salvageable from her rural property.
Bird, 81, was one of the first people forced to evacuate when the fire near Princeton broke out July 7.
She and her son William have been living in a motel for the past three weeks while she continues her rigorous volunteer schedule.
Thursday morning she was preparing for a full workday, sorting clothes donated for other evacuees.
And that is despite the fact that four days after Bird left her home she suffered a fall that resulted in facial injuries and a concussion.
Bird is a colorful and dynamic personality, president of the Princeton Hospital Auxiliary and a force to be reckoned with at the local garden club.
In an interview with The Spotlight two weeks ago, given just after she learned her home was burned, she was equal parts shaken and upbeat, remarking with characteristic humor that her laundry was probably dry and she was looking forward to getting a new wardrobe.
She expressed concern over her tomato plants and a favorite pith helmet – and mildly lamented the loss of her best teapot and a special pair of toenail clippers.
Bird was a reluctant evacuee, ignoring several official requests that she abandon her property until an RCMP officer parked in her driveway and indicated he wasn’t leaving until she did.
“When you are under attack, you want to attack back. I chose to do that with a sprinkler,” she said.
Bird eventually fled from the spreading blaze with just her dog Bruce and her passport.
Her optimistic view is best summed up with her comment: “[My son] 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.”
Since Laila’s story was first told she has shared her sunny outlook with CBC Radio and Global TV, and generated much admiration on-line.
A few of the comments on Black Press sites and pages follow.
– What an incredible inspiration you are to us all. Stay strong.
– Love this positive attitude. We need more of people like you. Thank you.
– You are a remarkable woman. May your rebuilding be a positive journey.
– What an amazing woman. Her insight and “glass half full” look at the situation she is faced with should be a guide for all.
-This is one remarkable woman, strength of character and wisdom.
– Thank you for the gentle reminder is what is really important – especially during a time of great loss.
If you are able to help Laila click here.