Const. Michael Gardner poses with 100 Mile House mayor Mitch Campsall, his former boss, after being deployed to 100 Mile House to help the local force with the wildfires. Submitted photo.

Const. Michael Gardner poses with 100 Mile House mayor Mitch Campsall, his former boss, after being deployed to 100 Mile House to help the local force with the wildfires. Submitted photo.

Constable returns home to help with fire

Childhood home burned

Since a provincial state of emergency was declared on July 7, extra police officers, military and fire crews from around the country and the world have made their way to the Cariboo.

Const. Michael Gardner is just one of those extra resources to make his way to 100 Mile House, however, his roots in the community extend back many years.

Gardner was born and raised in 100 Mile House and now works as an RCMP officer in Burnaby. He was deployed, along with two busloads of other officers from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, to head up to Williams Lake to support other emergency workers.

On the way, the bus dropped off 19 members in 100 Mile House. One of Gardner’s friends offered to switch with him, so Gardner would get the chance to work in his home town.

Gardner was assigned to general duty — covering the regular duties of RCMP members in the 100 Mile Detachment. He attended alarm calls, domestics and other incidents around the South Cariboo, as well as bringing supplies up to the checkpoints.

“It was neat talking to different members from all over the province and all over the country as well, people you don’t normally run into,” he says.

“We would just talk about our different sections and what our different duties were and it was just interesting to see how other places are doing compared to your home detachment,” he says.

Gardner worked during a bit of a lull for the area, arriving just before the evacuation order was lifted for 100 Mile House and leaving shortly before evacuation orders were put in place for Clinton, 70 Mile and Green Lake.

“The members who went before us had a lot of hardship, they were sleeping on cots, having meals prepared for them, working 16 hours a day if not longer, helping evacuate it. They were there in the thick of it,” he says.

Gardner stayed at his family, a short distance from town, and says it was neat seeing familiar faces and watching the community come together.

“I totally had expected the community to come together just from growing up there. I ran into a lot of people that I know it was really nice to see them all and hear they are doing okay,” he says.

“Everywhere we went everybody was pro-police and they were thanking us and people were buying us gift cards to Tim Hortons and stuff like that — just showing us really, really nice gestures. It meant a lot.”

Gardner says that while the experience was different, the duties he did on the job were the same as what he does in Burnaby.

One moment that stood out was heading behind the fire lines to where the house he grew up in had burned to the ground.

“We were able to drive in the back areas and see a lot of the affected areas where the fire was. I was able to drive out to our old property and unfortunately it was all gone,” he says.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was pretty much in shock, surprisingly. All the memories are going through your mind of growing up there. You feel bad for the family that had recently purchased the property,” he says.

“Just knowing that third degree of separation, knowing that someone that you know is affected by that and knowing the destruction is crazy.”

Still, he says, overall it was a good experience.

“It was a good experience for what it was. We put out a bunch of fires here and there. A bunch of us found hotspots and we were pouring water bottles all over them and using our shovels — not sure if it’s helping but we’re trying.”

Otherwise, Gardner ran into some of his old bosses, including Mitch Campsall, the mayor of 100 Mile.

He says most were surprised to see him in the town, but after that:

“They were all very happy I followed my career path of what I wanted to do.”

100 Mile House Free Press