Evelyn McDonald poses with her son Greg and Const. Brad Rendall. Rendall helped track down McDonald’s son years ago, and help him on the road to recovery from addictions. The officer and grateful mom had a chance encountered in Likely during the wildfires last year. Submitted photo.

2017 wildfires give B.C. mom chance to say thank you to officer who saved her son

An unlikely encounter in the rural community of Likely, near Williams Lake

When Evelyn McDonald was serving coffee to a group of strangers in Likely while the rest of the Cariboo was evacuated during the 2017 wildfires, she never expected who she would encounter.

It’s a story that begins in 2014, when McDonald’s son, Greg, went missing.

“I was in Alberta at the time, and I lived there, and I got a phone call from the Chilliwack transit company that his cell phone and belongings were found on a bus, but that no one could find him.”

At the time, her son was addicted to drugs and to be so far away when he was missing was tough on McDonald.

She called the RCMP and ended up on the phone with Const. Brad Rendall.

“He was the one I dealt with from the beginning. He started the fire and he was just a kind, kind fellow. He went above and beyond calling me every day to give me updates,” she said.

Two weeks later she got a special call from Rendall.

“He said, just one second, and passed the phone over to my son. He took him to a detox clinic and made sure he was alright,” said McDonald. “It was pretty amazing.”

READ MORE: Wildfire T-Shirt proceeds exceed all expectations

She said that was the first step on her son’s path to sobriety, and would send Rendall an update on the anniversary every year to thank him for everything that he had done.

Three years later, McDonald had moved to the Cariboo. Originally visiting Anahim Lake, (because she wanted to see where Carey Price was from), McDonald fell in love with the place.

When the fires started last July, and McDonald heard there were RCMP being brought from all over the area, she sent an email to Rendall telling him he was welcome in their home if he was ever in the area.

She said he responded with “My boss said I am too old and crotchety to be sent out.”

In an unusual move for McDonald and her husband, she said they headed down to the Likely Lodge one evening to watch the fights.

“All of a sudden the RCMP officers came in,” she said. “I was making coffee and just yacking away, and out of curiosity I asked if anyone was here from Chilliwack.”

The officers pointed out a very tall man.

“I said do you happen to know Brad Rendall? He pointed to his name tag, and I said, ‘What?’

“He said, ‘I’m Brad Rendall’ and I started crying.”

She introduced herself as Greg’s mom, and started talking.

“I was finally able to say thank you in person,” she said.

“It was amazing to say thank you to his face — Well, I stood on a chair.”

She counts it as one of the best things that has ever happened to her.

“You can say to someone thank you so many times via internet and email, but to actually meet him in person was the greatest thing ever. To look him in the eyes and say thank you. This whole thing has come full circle and something that started out so tragically has the best ending.”

READ MORE: B.C. rancher demands change on how gov’t handles emergencies after 2017 wildfires

She sent a letter to the RCMP afterwards, retelling the story, and nominating Rendall for any type of award that would fit the circumstance.

In June, Rendall was honoured for his compassion, thanks to McDonald’s nomination, and McDonald herself was given a Challenge Coin, to celebrate her acknowledgment.

“It was pretty neat,” said McDonald. “There was good that came out of the fires for us.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

View inside BC Hydro's Discovery Centre.
BC Hydro Discovery Centre reopening

Public can once again visit displays on way to Elk Falls

Pat McKenna, Habitat VIN's executive director and Alli Epp, Comox Valley Community engagement manager in front of Design Therapy, one of almost 200 businesses contributing to Bid to Build. Karen McKinnon Photo.
‘#BidToBuild’ auction launching to support affordable housing

Auction builds on last year’s successful effort, with new twists

Hope Rocks at the Campbell River Art Gallery highlighting local linguistic diversity.
Paint a rock to celebrate diversity

Hope Rocks highlighting linguistic diversity in Campbell River

Reflective number or design on hoodie. Police are seeking help in identifying three youth involved in an incident on Soderholm Road early June 12. Photo courtesy Campbell River RCMP
Do you know where your kids were at 1:24 a.m.?

Campbell River RCMP seeking help identifying three youths

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

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

Most Read