Fire and rain can’t spoil Christmas parade

The Christmas Parade was faced with drenching rain and a deliberate act of vandalism, but community spirit thrived. Winners announced.

Drenching rain

Drenching rain

Despite the rain, the Rotary Christmas Parade brought thousands to the streets of downtown Chilliwack in the evening of Saturday, Dec. 5.

The route was packed as the floats made their way through the downtown core one by one.

But Santa almost didn’t make it to the show.

Shortly after 2 a.m on Dec. 5, AJ Hutchinson posted a photo to a Chilliwack Facebook group of a float in flames, with the caption, “Put out a fire tonight on my way home. Why would someone light the Santa float for the Christmas Parade on fire the night before the parade? Not so nice…”

In a conversation with The Progress, Hutchinson said that he was on his way home when he saw something burning in the back parking lot of Chilliwack Secondary School (CSS).

According to CSS teacher and float designer Steve Anderson, students had been building Santa’s float on Friday evening, finishing up around 11 p.m.

They then unplugged everything, stowed the generator and headed home, with the expectation that they were ready for the parade the following day.

When Hutchinson and his friends realized what was burning, they “took immediate action” to put it out. They started pulling off pieces of cotton ‘snow’ and stomped out the flames.

“[We] had to put the fire out,” Hutchinson said. “Couldn’t have that many children disappointed at the parade.”

Hutchinson’s friend called 911 to report the fire while he continued to stomp out remaining flames.

Fortunately, the fire was put out while it was still relatively small, so it was mostly contained to the back of the float.

Assistant Chief of the Chilliwack Fire Department, Fire Prevention Mike Bourdon said that crews were called to the scene to assess the damage.

“Someone had maybe lit the cotton as they walked by,” Bourdon said. “There was no damage to the vehicle.”

But there was still a lot of repair work to be done on the float.

Around 8 a.m. on Saturday, Anderson saw a plethora of texts and phone calls from students and friends telling him what they had seen and read on Facebook.

By 8:30 a.m., Anderson was at the scene checking out the damage.

“It was burnt,” he said.

“In effect, all the Christmas lights from a quarter of the way back [on the truck] and all the way around were burned and melted. The framing and much of the wood was charred. Power and extension cords were burned.”

“Luckily, the truck trailer didn’t catch fire.”

Anderson, with the help from students past and present, quickly began the repair. They put out the word through social media and the radio for help.

“Community support is never a challenge with the parade,” parade coordinator Raymond Cauchi said. This incident was one where the community exemplified the spirit of giving.

By mid-day, there were upwards of 30 people helping out with the repairs, and bringing plenty of coffee and doughnuts to fuel the efforts.

They stripped down the wood, brought in all new ‘snow,’ and chicken wire to hold it in place, and rebuilt the deck wiring system.

They had the float all fixed up and put back together just in time to drive it over to the parade, around 4 p.m.

“I’m always amazed at how people can take a possible tragedy, in some sense, and make it a success through sheer generosity,” Cauchi said.

As for the cause, Anderson is sure that “it was set.”

“There was no power on the truck,” he said. And they had never had an issue building the float in the 16 years prior.

Ultimately, “what someone had tried to do to screw it up, actually turned into a great community effort to come together to fix it,” Anderson said.

With the quick action from the community, Santa and all his reindeer made it to the parade on time.

As he prepared to phone the winners, Cauchi commended all of this year’s floats, which were “super creative” and “amazingly beautiful.”

The Rotary Christmas Parade has announced the following winners for 2015:

Best School:

1st Place – AD Rundle2nd Place – Chilliwack Adventist Christian School3rd Place – Chilliwack Landing Preschool and Kindergarten

Best Cooperation Small:

1st Place – Foreman Equipment2nd Place – Weld-A-Quip3rd Place – Heritage Chiropractic

Best Agriculture:

1st Place – Prairie Coast Equipment2nd Place – Caliber Equipment3rd Pace – Denim abnd Diamonds Drill Team

Best Vehicle:

1st Place – Vintage Car Club of Canada2nd Place – Rosedale Fire Department3rd Place – Chilliwack Golf Club

Best Cooperation Large:

1st Place – Star 98.32nd Place – Shaw Cable Systems3rd Place  – London Drugs

Best Non-Profit:

1st Place – Chilliwack Society of Community Living2nd Place – Chilliwack School of Performing Arts3rd Place – Chilliwack Minor Football Giants

Best Overall:

AD Rundle

Best Entertainment Float:

Chilliwack School of Performing Arts

The winners will be celebrated with trophies at the awards ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Coast Hotel.

Just Posted

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 13

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Madalyn Clempson, 18, of Chilliwack sings ‘Hiney Yamin Ba-im.’ She won the Intermediate Vocal Canadian Music award at the Performing Arts BC Virtual Provincial Festival. (YouTube)
Chilliwack youth bring home awards from provincial performing arts festival

Chilliwack’s 18-year-old Madalyn Clempson ‘a bit stunned’ to have won Intermediate Vocal Canadian Music

These three kittens, seen here on Thursday, June 10, 2021, are just some of many up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Three kittens at the Chilliwack SPCA

Kittens were in ‘rough shape’ when they came into the Chilliwack SPCA, now ready for adoption

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Chilliwack family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read