Our Business

A Summer of Severe B.C. Wildfires

Employees, communities and Teck work together to assist those in need.

Wildfires have become expected during dry summers in British Columbia (B.C.), but when they come in hot and fast, it’s difficult for any community to fully prepare or handle the repercussions.

Residents of Ashcroft experienced this first-hand in early July 2017, when a nearby fire quickly ignited and an evacuation alert just as swiftly had some fleeing their homes. Among those forced to flee were a number of Teck employees who work at Highland Valley Copper (HVC) Operations, located about 50 kilometres southwest of Kamloops. 

On Alert: An HVC Employee Shares His Experience 

While on shift on July 7, Mine Technical Supervisor Ken Andersen received a call from his wife, Tracy; she notified him that a fire had started near their home in Ashcroft.

“She called and told me I needed to come home right away because there was an evacuation alert for Ashcroft,” Ken recalls. He jumped into his vehicle and made his way home. 

“Heading into Ashcroft, it was quite amazing to see the amount of smoke,” says Ken. 

“The flames were phenomenal, but at the same time they were on the other side of the river, so I didn’t worry too much.”

The fire continued to grow, displacing residents of neighbouring Cache Creek next and also getting the attention of many other nearby smaller communities, where residents prepared and waited for the order to leave.

While Ken’s home wasn’t in imminent danger any longer, his son Jared’s hobby farm on an acreage in 16 Mile was in the midst of weathering the firestorm. Ken joined his son, spending five days helping safeguard his property with the use of the community’s cistern and heavy duty equipment regularly used for his son’s landscaping business.

“We hooked up the trailer to my son’s truck and then we put another portable tank on the back. We kept filling that up and kept spraying water on his house and on all of the trees and grass and everything surrounding it just to keep it damp. We did the same thing on other people’s places as well.”

During the day, the makeshift crew patrolled the community, feeding neighbours’ livestock and pets, and ensuring flammables like debris and propane tanks were safely stored.

An eerie feeling started to settle in as the long days dragged by; the fire came close but only danced around Jared’s property. The next day the winds changed and the fire subsequently changed course.

“I used to be a firefighter in Cache Creek, but I’ve never dealt with something to this degree and nothing this close to family,” says Ken. “It was surreal.”

Ken was exhausted and thankful his family is safe but feels for other families impacted by the fires.

“It’s just one more thing that’s telling me not to take anything for granted,” adds Ken. “But I kind of live by that concept in general. Appreciate what you have in life, because who knows what could happen.”

A Community Comes Together

When she volunteered with the Red Cross at the evacuation centre in Kamloops, HVC’s Senior Community Affairs Officer, Jacqui Schneider, heard first-hand from locals who were displaced during the disaster.

Through her role at HVC, Jacqui is connected with a number of people in the community, so when a crisis like this hits, there’s a strong connection to the response efforts. 

“There’s definitely that personal side, where we know the people in the community—it’s not just our employees who we engage with,” she adds. “We know and care about the other people in the community, too.”

Teck Matches Employee Donations

To support employees, their families, and residents of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, Teck matched donations made by employees for wildfire relief up to a total of $25,000. Support for the Thompson-Nicola Region Wildfire Relief Effort was earmarked for the Ashcroft, Kamloops, Lytton and Merritt food banks; the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team; the SPCA; the Red Cross and the United Way. Teck donated an additional $50,000 to these groups.

HVC also donated $1,300 in groceries to the local legion in support of a lunch to feed those working around the clock helping with relief efforts and $2,500 to Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc to support the Williams Lake evacuees who were camping on the Powwow Grounds. 

Thank You

Download Connect Volume 19

Many thanks to those who contributed to and participated in this issue of Connect:

Catherine Adair, Community Relations Leader, Trail Operations; Ken Andersen, Mine Technical Supervisor, Highland Valley Copper; Mohammad Babaei, Senior Technical Analyst, IS+T Operational Technology, Line Creek Operations; Marsha Bradcoe (retired), Haul Truck Driver, Fording River Operations; Barbara Brice, Senior Human Resources Generalist, Pend Oreille Mine; Pamela Chait, Manager, Corporate Affairs, Santiago office; Rebecca Edwards, Communications Coordinator, Sparwood office; Francisca Gregorio, Communications Specialist, Corporate Affairs, Santiago office; Gord Kavaloff, Senior Reliability Specialist, Trail Operations; Hadden Kelloway, Blaster, Elkview Operations; Brian Kennedy, Project Director, Project Development and Engineering, Vancouver office; Peter Martell, Superintendent, Environment and Community Affairs, Highland Valley Copper; Cole Massaro, Equipment Operator, Greenhills Operations; Anna Mihalj, Technician, Mining, Engineering, Greenhills Operations; Nic Milligan, Manager, Social Responsibility, Sparwood office; Rick Plovie, Support Equipment Planner, Highland Valley Copper; Marisol Reategui, Executive Assistant, Exploartion (Americas), Surco office; Mark Richards, Manager, Mining Technology, Applied Research and Technology; Jacqui Schneider, Senior Community Affairs Officer, Highland Valley Copper; Herman Urrejola, Manager, Social Responsibility, Santiago office; Fritz Westlake, Community Relations Coordinator, Public Relations, Red Dog Operations; Richard Weymark, Dam Construction Manager, Highland Valley Copper; Alexa Young, Manager, Federal Government Affairs, Vancouver office

On the Cover

Sebastian Malagueño, Plant Manager, Quebrada Blanca Operations


Have a story that you would like to share through Connect? Submit your article and high-quality photos to: connect@teck.com