Knutsford residents welcome Mexican family evacuated from Williams Lake

By Adam Donnelly
July 31, 2017 - 5:33pm Updated: July 31, 2017 - 6:18pm

KAMLOOPS — It was supposed to be a happy reunion between a pair of sisters; Maritza Gutierrez, who lives in Guadalajara, Mexico was visiting her sister Maria Helena Jackson, a William’s Lake resident when the Hanceville-Riske Creek fire stranded them outside of the city. When Maritza and rest of her family were evacuated to Kamloops, they were turned away by the Red Cross because they aren’t Canadian citizen. Thankfully, some residents stepped up to make sure the Gutierrez family wasn’t left out in the cold.

The scene in Patricia Prescott’s living room is reminiscent of old friends enjoying each other’s company; when Maritza Gutierrez first met Prescott, Patricia was a volunteer at Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s emergency social services reception centre, where the Gutierrez family arrived after being evacuated from the William’s Lake area.

“It was scary,” Gutierrez explained. “For the first time in my life, I heard the voice of the fire when it goes up for the trees.”

Gutierrez and her family were visiting her sister Maria Jackson, a Canadian citizen who lives in William’s Lake. The family had taken a trip west on Highway 20 when a wildfire broke out in the region.

“The told us we couldn’t come out, because of the fires,” Gutierrez says.

The family was stuck, staying with one of the local Indian Bands in the region, who supported them with a tent and groceries for 15 days. When they were finally evacuated, they came to Kamloops; but the Red Cross told them they couldn’t help. Enter Patricia Prescott.

“The boss said ‘I’m sore sorry. We can;t help foreign nationals,’” Prescott explained. “We live in a big property, and I just felt these people needed help, more than a lot of other people.”

Patricia and her husband Rick took the Maritza, her daughter, sister, and aunt into their home, giving them free run of their lakeside property in Knutsford.

“I wanted them to feel… that they didn’t have to feel that this wasn’t their home,” Prescott says.

“It’s wonderful. I have a new family here in Knutsford,” Gutierrez says.

The whole community of Knutsford has stepped up, helping the Prescotts by dropping off groceries, and gift cards. For Maritza and her sister Maria Jackson, the generosity shown by the entire community of Knutsford has been overwhelming.

“I wasn’t expecting nothing like this,” Jackson says.

“They have been so kind with us,” Maritza says. “They are treating us like their family, and I hope they can come to my house, back in Mexico.”

While Maritza and her family fly home later this week, they’ll never forget their trip to BC thanks to the wildfires, and the new family they’ve gained as a result.


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