Without the efforts of B.C. Wildfire Service crews, the manager of SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre does not believe facility would still be standing.
In August, flames from the Eagle Bluff wildfire got to within less than a half-kilometre of SORCO and next-door neighbour, the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society.
And it was only those firefighters who stood between the wildlife centres and the rapidly advancing flames.
“Honestly, I can’t thank them (fire crews) enough, they were the ones who saved us, there was nothing we could do, we were in their hands,” said Dale Belvedere, SORCO manager.
“When we saw them come down from fighting the fire their faces were completely black, all you could see were their eyes and their lips.
“I personally have the most incredible respect for them and I know the whole SORCO family has so much respect for them.”
For over a week crews have been going back and fourth through the Nature’s Trust SORCO property to get access to the nearby fire.
All of the birds from both SORCO and Burrowing Owl were after the evacuation notice was issued, but Belvedere decided to remain behind, and she saw the hard work going on.
“There were about 12 of them hiking up the mountain to fight it and then all of a sudden the helicopter went in and brought them all down,” she recalled.
“That’s when the whole mountain exploded in flames on the south side, obviously they knew then it was going to ignite and they got them out of there within a minute, it was just craziness what we were seeing.”
Houdini, SORCO’s resident great horned owl was the first one to return home.
“It was just so strange not having the birds to feed,” said Belvedere, who admitted being in tears at one point.
“Since I’ve been here there’s never been a time when we were empty like this”
In August, a Penticton pair filed a civil lawsuit against the BC Ministry for Children and Family Development claiming inadequate care and support put them in a downward spiral and into a life of crime and drugs.
Bre-Anne Buhler and Kael Svendsen filed a notice of civil lawsuit in the Supreme Court on Aug. 22 on the legal basis of negligence, misfeasance of public office, abuse of process, breach of fiduciary duty and claiming the province is liable for any harm caused by the ministry director’s alleged negligence.
In her claim, Buhler said she was exposed to periods without food, street homelessness, illicit drugs such as methamphetamine, crack and cocaine.
She also claims she was sexually exploited and assaulted as a result of negligent parental actions by the director.
In court documents, Buhler stated she became a child in the continuing care of the province pursuant to a continuing custody order and was vulnerable to abuse given her history of parental neglect, medical neglect, a victim of sexual assault, housing transiency and exposure to traumatic circumstances.
Svendson alleged the failings of the director started when he was placed into a foster home where the adult suffered from alcoholism and provided him, on multiple occasions with booze.
The statement also claims that the foster parent had called RCMP while Svendson was intoxicated and admitted to supplying him with alcohol.
He said that he was removed from the home was “subsequently homeless, hungry and became addicted to drugs.”
Svendson claims he became involved in crime to afford food and began to steal to feed his alcohol addiction.
Buhler last served time behind bars in 2017 where the charges took up nearly five pages on the court docket, ranging from break-and-enters and drug charges down to breaking curfew while on bail.
She was sentenced in August to two years in jail after taking RCMP on an 18-minute chase where she had a “full pharmacy on board in her vagina” and appeared to be overdosing once police took her under arrest.
Svendsen was wanted on eight provincewide warrants and arrested in November in Osoyoos.
At the time he was facing 21 charges including careless use of a firearm, theft under $5,000, mischief, break and enter and two counts of assault.
Both plaintiffs argued that the director of the ministry had an obligation to consider their safety, physical and emotional needs and level of development, the importance of continuity of care and other best interests.
Buhler’s statement said the director failed to apply for benefits or entitlements to which they knew, or ought to have known she was entitled to and failed to put in place any future planning of care to assist Buhler in dealing with living independently as an adult exiting the care of the ministry.
Both of the plaintiffs are suing for unspecified monetary amount as a result of general damages, loss of earnings, loss of future earnings and damages for breach of fiduciary duty.