British Columbia

Clinton, B.C., museum to pay homage to 2017 wildfires with dedicated exhibit

The Clinton Museum in B.C.’s Interior is gathering stories and items to be part of its exhibit on the 2017 B.C. wildfires.

Exhibit commemorating the region's worst wildfire season on record to be ready for mid-May

An onlooker walks along the roadside between Clinton, B.C., and Kamloops in mid-July, with smoke from a nearby wildfire billowing in the background. At the time, the village of Clinton was under an evacuation alert. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The Clinton Museum in B.C.'s Interior is gathering stories and items to be part of an upcoming exhibit on the 2017 B.C. wildfires.

Through photos, maps, recorded stories from residents and volunteers, burned trees and other items, the museum hopes to commemorate the hardships faced during the region's worst wildfire season on record.

"The museum does something every year. How could we not do the fire?" museum president Andy May said. 

When the Elephant Hill fire closed in on the village of Clinton, an evacuation order was issued for the town. May, his wife and their cat were out of their home for 18 days while volunteers worked to keep the fire from overtaking the town.

Heavy smoke from the Elephant Hill wildfire was visible from a lookout near Clinton, B.C., about 40 kilometres northwest of Cache Creek. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

"It got within yards of the edge of the village," May said. 

"There were hundreds of volunteers who came in to Clinton and saved our town. We want to tell some of their stories as well to make sure they're remembered for saving Clinton."

As a result of the fires, the museum was forced to close, and lost a lot of the tourist traffic it would normally see during the summer months. But May hopes this exhibit will be a popular attraction, making up for some of last summer's losses. 

Not all fires are bad

While the fires forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and burned more than 1 million hectares, May wants to show visitors that wildfires can be positive.

"We have this perception that fires are bad," he said. "Every time a spark falls on the bush, we put it out."

"There's a lot of plants, right here in B.C. that require those fires to regenerate."

He said addressing regeneration in the exhibit will encourage people to think about the fires in a different way.

Clinton Museum volunteers are gathering pieces to include in its new exhibit, opening in May. (Clinton Museum)

The Clinton Museum plans to have the exhibit ready for mid-May.

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Courtney Dickson

Broadcast and Digital Journalist

Courtney Dickson is a journalist working in Vancouver, B.C. Email her at with story tips.