Linda Jorgensen threw some clothes and food into a backpack and headed to her cabin retreat tucked away at Winkley Creek on Quesnel Lake for the night.
However, this wasn’t going to be a relaxing mini-vacation from the busy life as a real estate broker. Instead, unbeknownst to Jorgensen at the time, she wouldn’t be allowed back home for another three weeks.
Jorgensen, a broker at Crosina Realty Ltd., was evacuated from her home on July 7 because of wildfires in the area of her quaint British Columbia community, 150 Mile House.
“There was no fire in our area at the time,” she recalls during a phone interview. “By 4 p.m., the wind came up and by that night the fires were quickly everywhere. It was burning two blocks from my son’s house and that was just a side fire.”
Jorgensen left the fate of her 1,650-square-foot, two-story home completely up to the mercy of the wildfire’s unpredictable, destructive path. Like others in the community who scurried to safer destinations, she didn’t know what she would return to, if anything but charred remains of their community nestled between the Coastal and Rocky Mountains. She was one of the lucky ones as her house was unscathed.
“We saw what Fort McMurray went through last year, but I think we were prepared to come back to something worse,” Jorgensen said, mentioning how residents of Fort McMurray have been helping her community and the harder-hit Williams Lake. “They are rebuilding themselves, and boy have they come out to support us in a big way.”
So, too, have REALTORS® across the country. Through the Canadian Red Cross’ British Columbia Fires Appeal, CREA and REALTORS Care® have been encouraging members to donate money to help those affected by the B.C. fires, and once again the support has been overwhelming.
Since putting out the call for help on July 19, REALTORS® have raised more than $53,000. Some real estate boards and associations have been adding to these efforts, donating added funds through various platforms. That money is used to help provide immediate relief such as cots, blankets, family reunification and financial assistance for food, clothing and personal needs. Beyond meeting immediate needs, donations go toward long-term recovery, resiliency and preparedness efforts.
Among all the fiery chaos, Jorgensen accomplished the unthinkable: she sold a property in the fire zone.
“When the guy first called me, I asked him, ‘You do know where you’re calling? You do know we’re evacuated?’” she remembers telling her client.
A conversation was had the next day, and the man still wanted to go through with the sale.
“I did everything off my laptop, I have all the technology I need to send documents. That’s what’s amazing about selling homes today,” said Jorgensen, a REALTOR® for 30 years.
Her voice recedes from an excitable tone when she begins thinking about the rebuilding process. A fire truck’s sirens are heard whizzing by in the background as she attempts to collect her thoughts. It reminds her of her two sons, Tyler, 34, and Mitch, 36, who are volunteer firefighters battling the blazes as she speaks.
Back at her 150 Mile House, Jorgensen said she feels lucky all she lost was some frozen food that spoiled when the power went out for a few days.
“That whole entire three weeks … my stomach was in knots. I was listening to the news non-stop to stay up-to-date on what was happening. I didn’t even know if my kids were safe, and I know some of my clients’ houses burned down,” she said. “But we will rebuild, there’s no doubt about that.”