Surrey firefighter Geoff McIntyre, left, Assistant fire chief Chris Keon, middle, talk to Williams Lake resident Woody Winkelmann about their firefighting efforts. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

Wildfire evacuee was ‘treated like royalty’

Woody Winkelmann just wants to say thank you

Despite what’s been a traumatic, drawn-out experience, Williams Lake resident Woody Winkelmann has no complaints about the evacuation process.

Along with his wife Cathy, Winkelmann had to pack up his things and make the long seven-hour drive to Prince George from Williams Lake when the evacuation order came down mid-July. Along the way, he was amazed by the strength and integrity of the emergency personel on scene.

VIDEO: B.C. fire crews return home after month-long wildfire battle

“It was literally raining ashes and here were those cops standing out there in that,” said Winkelmann of the police who lined the evacuation routes, helping escort evacuees to Prince George. “They’re away from their wife and kids too.”

The two weeks spent under evacuation order weren’t easy, especially when one of the Winkelmann’s front tires broke down, forcing them into a Prince George Canadian Tire on a Sunday. Thankfully, an off-duty mechanic was around to help.

“The lady gave me a price – $850,” said Winkelmann. But when the mechanic told him the job was done and he went up to pay his bill, he got quite the surprise.

“It said $583. Canadian Tire knocked off $300. They wouldn’t take our money.”

Woody WInkelmann is thrilled about how he was treated as an evacuee. Katya Slepian/Black Press.

Winkelmann had a similar experience while making a sign saying thank you to Prince George for helping him, his wife and all the evacuees in a time of need.

“I tried to give [the cashier] my money but she said no!” Winkelmann said.

Cathy and Woody Winkelman made up a poster to show Prince George how grateful they were. Katya Slepian/Black Press

The same experiences was repeated everywhere the Winkelmanns went in Prince George.

Everywhere we went we got treated like royalty,” he said. “Everyone was super nice about asking if we were okay.”

Despite the hardships, Winkelmann isn’t complaining.

“All we want to do is say thank you,” he said.

“People are [complaining] – give me a break.”


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