It took nearly eight months, but Sam Allaby was finally able to retrieve his frying pans.
The Lytton resident went ‘home’ last Wednesday (Feb. 17), and was allowed to poke through the charred rubble that was his residence before a wildfire destroyed it last summer.
“I have seen a lot of fire damage in my life, but the amount of heat damage from the fire in Lytton is absolutely baffling,” he said. “The siding from my mobile home was literally melted into pools.”
Allaby didn’t expect to find much. The day before he left, he said he was just hoping to get a cast iron frying pan that was given to him by a friend. He was happy to find it among his home’s remains, but so much more was lost.
All that was left of his beloved piano were the metal foot pedals.
“The worst part was when the guy I was with found some bones,” Allaby said. “At first he thought I must have had a big snake under my trailer when the fire happened, but then I figured out it wasn’t a snake. It was what was left of my cat. I didn’t need to find that. I would rather have linted the fantasy that my cat escaped and found a new life somewhere.
”It’s one thing to hear about this stuff on the news or see it in a movie, but to actually live it. The emotion can’t be explained. Those were our homes. Those were our friends, family and loved ones who suffered.”
It took so long to get this ‘closure’ that he so badly needed because Allaby was a renter. No one could get in touch with his landlord to give him clearance to get on the property.
”It’s heartbreaking because anything that maybe could have been recovered back then has been rained on, snowed on, and frozen/thawed several times,” he said. “I have absolutely nothing from my life before the fire.
”It’s hard to swallow, and many of us still haven’t been able to acquire counselling services.”
Allaby’s therapy is coming from a project he’s working on.
Since being displaced by the fire he’s been a nomad. He went to Ashcroft for a couple months and spent time with his dad in New Brunswick. Since September he’s been staying at the Gladwin mobile home park, which is eight kilometres out of Lytton.
He’s spent much of that time building a website to help others whose lives were ruined.
The site is lyttonstrong.com and it’s intended to re-connect Lyttonites as the community rebuilds. The home page says the site is for free community classifieds and bulletins for Lytton, Hope, Boston Bar, Lillooet, Spences Bridge, Cache Creek and Ashcroft.
“I was inspired to build the website because after the fire it was difficult for some people, who did not use Facebook to find information, like me for example,” Allaby explained. “A lot of resources were posted in community groups on Facebook, which was excellent, but some people who did not use those websites were not aware of the resources being on there.
“The LyttonStrong site is one place where people can post information and even those who do not sign up on the website will easily be able to find the information.”
It’s a basic build, by design. Users can ‘post an ad’ in eight categories: announcements/bulletins, arts/crafts/hand-mades, ask/offer for help, buy/sell/trade/free, farmer’s market, housing/accommodations, job board and moving sales/yard sales.
“The site is meant to be as simple as possible for somebody to just post a picture and type a description of what they want to share,” Allaby said. “Also, by eliminating things like star ratings and ‘inline discussions’ on the ads, I’m hoping that people will be less prone to be victim of public shaming and discrimination by people who don’t like their post.
“My hope for the site is that it becomes an equal-opportunity place of self-expression for whoever decides to use it. I want people to feel comfortable sharing with other people. I don’t want people to be in fear of their ads being removed because somebody else doesn’t like it. I don’t want people to be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. I want people to know that there is a place for them.”
Allaby said he’s not in physical shape to help rebuild the community, and this is his way of helping.
Digging through his former home reminded him just how much rebuilding there is to do.
“I’m very devastated and saddened for everybody’s loss as I always have been but getting right now to ground zero was a violent reminder of the trauma that everyone involved experienced,” Allaby said. “It never gets any easier thinking and talking about this stuff, but I know it’s healthy to get it out.”