The family of two men injured in the wildfire in southwest Saskatchewan this week are sharing the harrowing story of their survival.
Twila Wedrick and her daughter Shianna spoke with 650 CKOM Friday morning from the Calgary Foothills Hospital.
It’s there that Wedrick’s husband and son are recovering from critical burns they received while helping fight the fire near their hometown of Tompkins on Tuesday.
“They volunteer to help with the fires that happen out in the fields. That’s what all the boys out there do – they pull their water truck, they bring their tractors,” Wedrick said.
Ron, 43, and Evan, 25, were out on the road with their truck when sudden whipping wind created a dust storm.
“Between that and the smoke, the road was hard to see and they ended up driving in the ditch and then the wind turned and the fire came in a different direction,” she said.
The father and son got out of the truck to try and get back to the road, however, Wedrick said the two were disoriented and came up against a large fence meant to keep out wildlife.
Wedrick said her husband managed to call a friend to hail an ambulance. He was also able to use an alert button due to his work as a contractor in the oil patch.
“When you hit it, it activates and sends out a message to your boss and all your co-workers,” Ron’s daughter, Shianna, explained. “His boss was able to pinpoint his exact location to tell the ambulance where they needed to go to.”
The two men were taken to a hospital in Medicine Hat before being transferred to Calgary Foothills Hospital, where they are expected to remain for another month.
Wedrick said the two sustained severe burns to their bodies. As of Friday morning, Ron was conscious, while Evan remained sedated for his own comfort.
“They both can hear us, so every message that is sent to us we are there telling them and we are sharing it with them,” Wedrick said.
Community rallies to support family
In addition to the GoFundMe campaign, another neighbour is organizing a fundraising supper to support the Wedrick family. Lisa Atem lives near their farm and said what happened to Evan and Ron “was so scary it didn’t even seem real”.
“Everybody wants to help, we have more help than we can handle,” she said, noting that everyone is offering food or raffle prizes and volunteering their time.
The original plan was to host the fundraising event in the tiny village of Carmichael, but they had to switch to a bigger location in Tompkins.
“It’s just a testament to how wonderful the Wedricks are,” Atem explained.
The family is overwhelmed by the support pouring in from friends, neighbours and even strangers.
“The support is unbelievable. We never expected that,” Wedrick said. “It’s great to be able to tell them that they can just take the time to heal.”
As for what the future holds, Wedrick is positive there will always be people around to help in a time of need.
“They will probably have some difficult days, but they’re going to have people there that will uplift them and carry them the whole way through,” “This is a true testament of small communities sticking together.”
—With files from 650 CKOM’s Brent Bosker and 980 CJME