It’s been a long year for Denise O’Connor, but thanks to the Rotary Club of Quesnel and Quesnel Canadian Tire, her holidays were a little bit brighter.
O’Connor lives in Lytton, and the wildfire which ripped through the community in the summer of 2021 did more than destroy homes: it also depleted the town’s supply of Christmas decorations.
“On hearing this from lifelong Lytton resident and now Rotarian Sarah Brown, we decided to try to do something about that,” the Quesnel Rotary Club posted to Facebook.
“Yes, there are probably more important needs to be addressed but the thought of a community in darkness over the festive season sounded like the opposite of Christmas cheer.”
Aly Johnstone, manager of Canadian Tire in Quesnel and also a Rotarian, stepped up to donate a truckload of decorations to the cause. Rotary was also able to raise $1,000 for the cause.
“I just think it’s important Quesnel gets some recognition,” O’Connor said. “Throughout the whole ordeal with the fire, people have been so kind and so generous with everything.”
O’Connor, who is the mother of Brown, is part of the Two Rivers Community Services Society in Lytton, which usually decorates downtown Lytton in lights for the Christmas season.
While her latest home was destroyed by the blaze, O’Connor taken up residence inside her childhood home which was spared. Around 400 households are living in the Lytton area right now.
“Your life can just turn in an instant,” she said.
“It was literally minutes that we had (to evacuate). Things changed forever. My daughter who lives in Quesnel grew up in (my) house that burned down.”
While a fire was the cause of the Christmas decoration shortage, it was nearly continued by water. The rains from atmospheric rivers made getting the load of decorations from Quesnel to Lytton challenging.
O’Connor said her daughter took the decorations to Williams Lake, then it was passed off to a friend, and finally picked up by O’Connor herself in Cache Creek.
“It was quite an ordeal to even get them here,” she said. “Our next issue was where we wanted to put them up, there was no power, so we had to find a place to plug in.”
The group eventually settled on outside the forestry wildfire base in Lytton.
It was a quiet Christmas for a community in recovery.
“Personally I am ready to move on and start building, but they haven’t even cleaned up the debris yet,” O’Connor said. “It has not been good that way. Other than that I think I’m doing well.”
As Lytton got hit with a few feet of snow, O’Connor expects the lights to remain up at least through January.
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