B.C. cou­ple turns California va­ca­tion into vol­un­teer ef­fort

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Beth LEIGHTON, Laura KANE

CHICO, Calif. — A British Columbia cou­ple’s get­away to north­ern California has turned into a mis­sion to help peo­ple flee­ing deadly and de­struc­tive wild­fires.

Destinee and Paul Klyne of Pen­tic­ton had planned a peace­ful hol­i­day in Par­adise, Calif., but flames de­stroyed their Airbnb and much of the com­mu­nity be­fore their ar­rival. They de­cided to go ahead with the trip any­way, chan­nelling their va­ca­tion funds into re­lief for ex­hausted evac­uees.

“The funds we had al­lo­cated for our fun, we just thought, OK, why can’t we help some peo­ple with that? So we went to Wal­mart and bought a bunch of $25 gift cer­tifi­cates and handed them out to peo­ple as we saw fit,” said Paul.

The cou­ple set up in the store’s park­ing lot in Chico, where they joined forces with a food truck op­er­a­tor and worked with him to feed evac­uees un­til he ran out of meals. The next day, some­one do­nated $2,000 to re­plen­ish the truck.

Dona­tions kept pour­ing in and more food ven­dors of­fered to help, turn­ing the park­ing lot into a hub of ac­tiv­ity where the cou­ple es­ti­mates they served 1,200 to 1,500 peo­ple on Thurs­day. They’ve also been us­ing do­nated money to buy more gift cards, fill gas tanks and buy gro­ceries.

“It is so nice to be able to bring forth the Cana­dian spirit of giv­ing, of com­pas­sion and gen­eros­ity,” said Destinee. “Es­pe­cially in the times that we’re in now, with the po­lit­i­cal (cli­mate), it’s kind of nice to say, ‘You are our Amer­i­can neigh­bours and we love you.’ ”

The wild­fires are among the dead­li­est in United States his­tory with more than 600 peo­ple re­ported miss­ing. Par­adise has been dec­i­mated, with nearly 10,000 homes, hun­dreds of shops and other build­ings go­ing up in smoke.

The cou­ple said they’ve heard ter­ri­ble, heart-wrench­ing sto­ries from peo­ple seek­ing emo­tional sup­port.

“We talked to one guy who said he ran back in the fire to try and get his mom,” said Destinee. “He couldn’t get his mom and he had to run for his life. His mom and his dog per­ished in the fire.”

Both Destinee and Paul said they re­mem­ber the names and faces of many of the peo­ple they’ve helped.

One man told them he drove his Volvo through a wall of flames be­cause it was ei­ther that or die, while an­other man begged them to make a video and post it to Face­book be­cause he couldn’t find his girl­friend.

“I have had more hugs from strangers than I have had in my en­tire life,” Destinee said.

“We have seen melted cars, like the doors of cars melted off. We saw a Dodge Charger with the lights all melted and back end all melted . ... You see peo­ple lit­er­ally walk­ing around just in a daze.”

HANDOUT PHOTO BY DESTINEE KLYNE

Paul Klyne of Pen­tic­ton helps with an im­promptu kitchen for wildfire evac­uees in Chico, Calif., in this re­cent handout photo. It was sup­posed to be a va­ca­tion in Par­adise, but in­stead a British Columbia cou­ple’s get­away to north­ern California has turned into a mis­sion to help peo­ple flee­ing deadly and de­struc­tive wild­fires.

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