The wife of a Saskatchewan man in critical condition after fighting wildfires near Tompkins, Sask., earlier this week said the decision by her husband and her father-in-law to help is a testament to their spirits.
"Their act that they were doing is who they are. How they got themselves in that situation is just who they are. They give their shirt off their back to anyone," Kymberleigh Wedrick said Thursday.
Her husband, 25-year-old Evan Wedrick, and his father, 43-year-old Ron Wedrick — who live in the Gull Lake and Carmichael area — are currently being treated by burn specialists in Calgary's Foothills Medical Centre.
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Twila Wedrick, Ron's wife, said her husband is awake and responsive and can communicate using his hands.
Evan is sedated and in critical condition, suffering from third-degree burns, she said.
Trapped by fire
Twila Wedrick said the pair were helping fight wildfires on Tuesday evening near Tompkins — a small community of around 170 residents, located about 75 kilometres southwest of Swift Current.
It was among several areas threatened by wildfires fuelled by high winds Tuesday.
She said Ron and Evan were driving along a road when smoke and strong winds made it difficult to see, resulting in their vehicle hitting the ditch.
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"Then the wind changed and the fire came towards them and they were engulfed in the truck, so they thought they should get out and try to run through the fire to the other side — that would be their best option of survival," Wedrick recalled.
"They ran into a buffalo fence, which knocked them down and the rest is what we are."
RCMP in Leader, Sask., confirm two men were taken to Medicine Hat, Alta., and then Calgary for treatment.
Rick Armstrong, who owns the Tompkins Hotel, said ranchers, farmers and Hutterite colonies came together to help firefighters battle the blaze, which came within 2½ kilometres south of the community.
"That's what we do," Twila Wedrick said.
"We're a community, we're family and we stick together to protect our community, and they were there to help and support the other families that were suffering or worrying about their land, and so that's what we do in our area."
More than $52K raised to support family
As of Thursday afternoon, more than $52,000 had been raised through a GoFundMe campaign to help cover some of the families' expenses while the men are in hospital.
Twila Wedrick called the response "unbelieveable."
"Words can't express the gratitude," she said.
She said both men are surrounded by extended and immediate family, including Evan's newborn daughter.
"We have to be strong for them. We're going to get through this. They're going to get through this," said Twila Wedrick.
"We're strong for them. We got a long journey ahead of us, but we will be with them every single step of the way."