Terri Navid described wildfires that swept through southwestern Saskatchewan on Oct. 17 as “hell on earth” while speaking Thursday at the Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan (APAS) annual general meeting in Regina.
Navid’s brother, Ron Wedrick, and his son Evan were both severely burned while trying to fight a blaze near Tomkins, Sask., about an hour from the Alberta border.
She said her brother and nephew were taken to Maple Creek hospital the night of the fire. From there, they were moved to hospital in Medicine Hat where initial treatment was done on Evan. Both men were then airlifted to the Foothills Hospital in Calgary.
“That was October 18th, so they remain in Calgary today,” Navid said. “Evan is still in the burn unit and (Ron) is in an outpatient care program.”
Ron still attends the hospital on a daily basis with the outpatient program working with a physio and occupational therapist. Navid added he’s still trying to get movement back in his hands as well as therapy to burns to his face.
“His fire retardant coveralls saved his life and probably the life of his son Evan,” she said.
Evan remains in the burn treatment unit at Foothills where Navid said he has undergone skin graft surgery since the blaze.
“Evan, unfortunately, received burns to about 65 per cent of his body,” she said. “I would say my dad described it best as he said “He was burnt from head to toe” … he goes to surgeries probably once per week where they graft skin from his chest to various other parts of his body.”
Navid said Evan has had surgery everywhere you can think of.
“They’ve done surgeries to his arms, face, nose, eyelids, ears, every bit of him has been replaced by skin from his chest,” she said.
“We’re all amazed at how remarkable Evan and Ron’s recovery has been.”
She said doctors performed the last major surgery of grafting skin on Evans right leg on Tuesday. She added most of his surgeries have been very successful.
‘Proud to be from Sask.’
Throughout the course of the last month and a half, Navid said the community has been outstanding with support, prayers and positive thoughts.
“Honestly those first five days in Calgary, when the boys were in really critical condition and we didn’t know how severe their injuries would be and if they would make it or not, that support is really what I think pushed them through,” Navid said. “You could really feel the support coming from home and it makes you very proud to be from Saskatchewan and it makes you very grateful for how Saskatchewan people really pulled together.”
She said this particular fire touched more than just her family as many men and woman were traumatized by it.
“Families have been hurt by this fire. no one had seen anything quite like it … there was people doing what they could to save each other, to save land, cattle, farmyards and so we thank everyone who did something to make that night better.”
Outpouring of financial support
An abundance of optimism is what Navid has when it comes to how everything will work out in the end. For now, the Wedricks have rented a house in Calgary as the two men are receiving treatment.
“My brother and his wife are living together with their daughter-in-law and her and Evan’s baby (along with) my nephew’s mother-in-law,” she said. “There’s a huge network of people there together. Ron needs to go to the hospital every day, Evan’s in the hospital. So they spend as much time as they can together.”
She said her brother told her “living in Calgary is expensive” and the amount of financial support from everyone has helped them immensely.
Ron and Evan’s local community of Carmichael, along with the surrounding communities such as Tompkins, Gull Lake, Fox Valley, Webb and Shaunavon to name a few, put on multiple benefits right after they heard what happened to them in the wildfire.
Navid estimates more than $100,000 was raised at the various benefits. The funds were given directly to the Wedricks or split between them along with Eddie Riehl who sustained severe burns and to the family of James Hargrave, the Alberta volunteer firefighter who lost his life battling the fire.
The money raised from the events is on top of the more than $100,000 raised by a GoFundMe page put up by a close family friend.
“The support system has been great and unbelievable from the community,” she said.