By David Shuman
As fires burned and smoke billowed across the province, the tragedy that took Clive and Kim Jones’ home in 2008 came rushing back to them.
Fifteen years after the Porters Lake/Mineville fire, Clive and his wife Kim are offering their support to victims of the wildfires. He says they are now linked by something few can wish to imagine.
On June 13, 2008, a wildfire burned 1,900 hectares, destroyed two homes, and damaged several more. Over 5,000 residents evacuated in Porters Lake, Mineville, and surrounding communities. Deadfall from Hurricane Juan in 2003 and heavy winds accelerated the fire and made it unpredictable for firefighters to tackle.
When the evacuation order came in, Kim raced to their Candy Mountain home to pick up a small number of things. Clive remembers seeing a plume of smoke when he was driving home along Ross Road.
When they received a call from the deputy fire chief the following morning, Clive says he thought he was joking when he told him their house was totally lost. “It was very numbing,” said Clive. “There’s really no reaction. There’s nothing because you’re not prepared for it. You know?”
This hurt was only the beginning, he said. After seeing the damage, he was left with anger and frustration over the loss. His advice for people in these situations: reach out for help in dealing with grief and hard emotions. “I didn’t,” he said. “I probably should have, but I didn’t.” Lengthy and detailed insurance claims extend emotions and cut off time needed to process, heal, and move on. “The thirteenth of June is not a good day for us.”
The day after the Jones’ found out about their home, they were shown their neighbourhood on a bus trip. The next day, Monday, they were allowed back in to sort through the rubble. “I tried to find the spot in the basement where my wife’s jewelry box had ended up,” said Clive. “I found bits of blue and gold. I was actually hoping to find diamonds, but I didn’t.”
The Jones’ were put up for free in a cottage while waiting for their new home to be built. Clive said when they would come home from shopping for clothes to replace what they had lost or from work, they would often find a lasagna or casserole on their doorstep with a note attached. When they needed furniture, a stranger offered to give it to them. “It’s all little things and truthfully at the time, those are the things that meant the most.”
A year after the fire, the residents of Candy Mountain Road threw a party to thank those that helped in the fire—fire crews, police, the Department of Natural Resources—not to relive the event, but to be with those who lived through it. They had celebrations and tears and partied into the night. Clive remembers it as a time of people starting to let go of what had been lost. “I cried quite a lot,” he said. “Not enough.”
Eventually, they rebuilt their home in the same spot to stay by their neighbours. But the reminders got to be too much. Burnt trees in their backyard and a new home made it hard to settle in. They’ve moved more recently to Elmsvale, just outside Middle Musquodoboit.
As evacuees return to their homes, their lives have changed without warning.
When the Jones’ heard of the fires, emotions came flooding back. They say that they want to offer advice and support in whatever ways they can.
“We belong to that club, dire as that may be,” said Clive. “If I can do any little bit to give them some information that will help them, that’s all I can do.”