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Author’s multimedia presentation recalls Chilcotin wildfire

Wildfire.

It’s on the minds of Kootenay residents, and for good reason: every year hundreds of fires ravage forests in British Columbia, threaten communities, and put homes in peril. Authors Chris Czajkowski and Fred Reid offer a first-hand account of personal standoff between human and inferno in their new book Captured by Fire (Harbour Publishing).

Reid tells the story in a multimedia event at the Nelson Public Library on Thursday, November 7 at 7 p.m. Reid will also appear at the Salmo Library on Wednesday, November 6 at 7 p.m.

It was 2017: more than 200 fires were burning across B.C., and an evacuation order was issued for nearly 10,000 people in the central interior. In the Chilcotin, wilderness dweller Chris Czajkowski and homesteader Fred Reid stood their ground, staying to protect their homes and animals. It’s not a position they recommend, and they had their own doubts as lightning sparked new fires, winds shifted, and firefighters pulled out.

The question was ever-present: when is it time to go?

Captured by Fire is told by Reid and Czajkowski in alternating chapters that describe first-hand experience.

Wrote Reid: “By August 22, things began to heat up again. I posted: 'When the fire was coming directly at us, it was being fought with twenty-five firefighters on the ground. They did amazing work but they were not enough. Now there are seventy-two ground crew, with more expected tomorrow." With his wife Monica, the two extinguished spot fires close to home as heavy smoke billowed around them.

Chris Czajkowski’s book Diary of a Wilderness Dweller is a classic of British Columbia literature. She’s written ten more, all of them offering a glimpse into a life that fully embraces self-sufficiency and respect for nature. Fred Reid spent more than thirty years farming in the Fraser Valley before settling into a remote homestead near Anahim Lake.

Reid is on a multi-stop tour through the Chilcotin, Cariboo, Okanagan, Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast, Lower Mainland, and the Kootenays.