More than $38,000 has been raised for 13 volunteer firefighters who lost their homes while protecting their community from wildfire.
Fire chief Paul Zydowicz oversees the team of 24 volunteers at the Wilson's Landing Fire Department, north of West Kelowna, and he was among those who lost his home while battling the McDougall Creek fire.
"I have no words to describe the pride that I feel to be a part of this team," Zydowicz said at a news conference Thursday.
"From the very first spark you've shown up and fought this fire while your own homes were burning behind you."
Paul Zydowicz's family home, left, was destroyed by the fire, right. (Submitted by Wilson’s Landing Volunteer Fire Department)
The McDougall Creek fire grew rapidly last week, destroying structures and forcing more than 10,000 people to evacuate their homes.
Zydowicz's cousin-in-law Arne Perrin started an online fundraiser to help the 13 firefighters and aims to raise $130,000 to be split evenly among them.
"How do you even give words to watching these people go out and continue to fight fires all week while their home is gone," Perrin asked. "All we can do is thank them."
Perrin said he hopes the money will provide the firefighters and their families with some relief as they go through the process of claiming insurance and rebuilding.
The Wilson's Landing Fire Department consists of on-call volunteers who protect about 175 homes just north of West Kelowna. (Sara Fletcher)
Jennifer Henson, an officer at the Westbank Salvation Army, was shocked and in awe to learn the volunteers were still fighting despite the losses they experienced.
"It was a little bit like watching a movie, a little bit surreal," said Henson, who visited the Wilson's Landing firefighters to deliver meals.
"They would say, 'You know, you just keep going.' And then they would go back out to their shift and save another person's home that day."