“It was just water everywhere for miles and miles.”
Brian studies business at Simon Fraser University. But, most days, he’d rather be on the water with a fishing rod in hand. “My dad got me into it when I was younger,” says Brian, who has 12-foot aluminum boat with an eight horsepower motor.
“I love the early mornings. I love watching the sun come up. I love the feeling when you hook a fish. I love being outside and taking that time to de-stress from everything throughout the week,”
In a roundabout way, fishing led him to Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business. “I like making money so I can spend more time doing the things that I love such as fishing,” says Brian. “I thought business school would’ve been the ideal way to do that and just make as much passive income as possible.”
But that passion for fishing also meant he had the skills and equipment necessary to help when atmospheric rivers plunged the Sumas Prairie beneath several feet of water.
I became aware of the floods on social media. There was one guy talking about being on the roof with his dog, not knowing if he was going to get help. I knew that I had a boat and I had friends who had boats as well. I was like, “Why don’t we do a big rescue effort?”
I put something on my Instagram and Facebook seeing if anybody needs help. All of a sudden, because I have a lot of friends in the fishing community, people started messaging, “Hey, can I join you? I have a boat. Hey, my buddy has a boat. He wants to join.” We ended up having a big group effort that happened within the span of twelve hours.
We were driving around trying to look for a place to launch. It was just water everywhere for miles and miles. After we got the boats launched, we were off to the races. We made a bit of a map and said, “Okay. This is the area. You take that part of Abbotsford. You take that part. You take that part. I’ll take that part.”
It was a slow roll for the most part. You knew how deep the water was in most places. But, depending on the incline, there would only be a couple feet. You’d have to watch out because there’s fences. We hit the prop so many times on fences. We hit the prop on so many different things that day. The water was so dirty you couldn’t avoid it.
“We hit the prop so many times on fences. We hit the prop on so many different things that day.”
At certain points, you’d be watching out for vehicles. There’s lots of flooded cars. Some were barely under the water, some were half out of the water, some were just fully submerged.
We had a list of people who asked for help on Facebook. We were going towards one of the houses and I see this island. Probably only ten feet by ten feet, just the pinnacle of this hill. I see something on it and go, “Oh my goodness. That’s a dog.” We got really close and we’re like, “Oh, oh. That’s not a dog.” This coyote had managed to swim to this island that was the only piece of land for a mile.
My personal story was that this family had a cat that was left in the house. Coming up to the house, we dinged the boat motor prop on something. We looked down and had dinged it on top of a tractor. We arrived and tied the boat off to a pillar in the front of the house.
As we’re walking towards the house, it was waist deep in most spots. My buddy gets something on his leg. He kicks it and a dead rabbit floated up. We couldn’t get into the house originally because everything was locked. We asked permission to break into the house. We broke a window, got in, and looked all over.
“My buddy gets something on his leg. He kicks it and a dead rabbit floated up.”
Going inside the house was a shock. The downstairs level is just chaos. There’s three feet of water inside. Things are floating.
Everything’s soaked. The walls are just tarnished. Then you walk up to the second floor and everything’s in order. You had schoolwork on the desk. Everything is normal.
We looked on every level. We looked everywhere and we couldn’t find this cat. As we’re about to head out, one of my buddies, he’s like, “I just heard a meow.” We turn around and heard another. We look into this closet. We find the cat underneath the clothes, looking terrified. We got the pet crate they left out, ushered it in, and put a blanket on it so it wouldn’t get so cold. We saved it.
Prior to the flood, I would say I was a selfish person. I’d always been like, “Oh, not my problem.” Seeing that death and destruction hit so close to home shifted my mindset to: “These people need help. I would hope that if this ever happened to me, they would come back and help me.”
The flood made me feel like climate change disasters could hit close to home. Prior to this, climate change affected the things I love to do. It’s decimated fish stocks around here. But I’m really worried about it having even more of an impact through these disasters.
“The flood made me feel like climate change disasters could hit close to home.”
I think there needs to be more work to prevent these events in the future. We will get big rainstorms like that again.
Politically, I’m very right wing. But this is definitely a very liberal opinion I have. Climate change is a big issue. We need to stop politicizing it. We need to start working towards trying to slow it down or stop it completely.
When something like this hits so close to home, you look at it and go, “Wow, it can be you tomorrow.”
This story was originally published in The Fraser Valley Current, on December 8, 2022.
Jordi Williams, Chilliwack, Canada
Tosh Sherkat, Victoria, Canada
Ryan Kehley, Harrison Hot Springs, Canada