An earthquake reportedly struck just 28 miles from Vancouver and people’s apartments shook


After a busy summer, during fire season, Wheeler recalls starting to feel more relaxed because they expected things to slow down. That didn’t happen, though, as he said the flooding “catapulted them all back into emergency mode.”

It wasn’t like anything they’d dealt with before as BC got historic amounts of rain leading to mudslides, flooding and highway destruction. Entire houses were left in disarray as cities were evacuated. Several people were killed during the chaos.

Wheeler said it was on a “different level” this time, as they received calls from individuals requesting rescue, not just the typical calls from rescue and emergency services in BC.

They were trying to run the rescue flights and the “plenty of calls” they were getting from people with questions and from people wanting to be flown out of places with dangerous flooding, such as in Hope, Wheeler explained.

As he completes these rescues and receives more calls than usual, Wheeler recalls that it was “an overwhelming four or five days for sure.”

His first rescue during the floods was at Merritt, where he took one of the helicopters and rescued people in immediate danger from the rising waters.

“We lifted them out of their house,” he said, before moving on to their next mission. However, it was not just people who took them out, but also pets that needed to be rescued.

Some people needed urgent rescue and they helped houses with 12 or 15 people. Others, however, wanted to “stay because they had a boat or other access,” Wheeler said

Wheeler said they normally rescue people from fires or the forest, but this time they took people out of their homes. This was different, he explained.

“People we’ve taken from their homes were thankful that they were safe and all that stuff, but then afterwards there’s another realization that they actually lost their home that day.”

He said it was emotional for people who had to leave their homes in the floods, and he remembers seeing the houses ‘just surrounded by water’.

“Some of the destruction on the roads that you hear a little bit about, but until you see it, it’s hard to fathom, like just bits of highway gone,” he explained.

When he flew over cities he’d been over many times and saw them completely submerged, he told you to “block yourself to watch the destruction unfold”.

In order to focus on his mission, he didn’t have to think about everything that was going on around him, and it only dawned on him a few days later and he thought, “wow, this is something you never expect to see.”

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