Burned twice: Family who lost home in Fort McMurray wildfire loses another in B.C. wildfire

The ashen ruins of a home, with nothing more than a chimney standing amid the devastation, is an eerily familiar sight to Jason Schurman. He's lost homes in both B.C. and Alberta to wildfire.

‘It’s mind blowing. It’s impossible to conceive until it happens and then you are like, wow’

The photos are eerily similar. On the left is Jason Schurman's home that was destroyed by the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016 and on the right is his home near Williams Lake, B.C., that burned in July 2017. (Jason Schurman/Supplied)

The ashen ruins of a home, with nothing more than a chimney standing amid the devastation, is an eerily familiar sight to Jason Schurman.

In July, Schurman's log home in Hanceville, about 100 kilometres from Williams Lake, burned in one of the wildfires in B.C.

His is one of 300 homes and structures lost so far by wildfires burning in the province's interior.

His home in Fort McMurray was one of 2,400 that were also lost in 2016, when the Alberta wildfire known as The Beast ravaged parts of the oilsands capital and displaced almost 90,000 residents.

He hadn't even started to rebuild in Fort McMurray before losing his B.C. home. Schurman stays in an RV park outside downtown Fort McMurray during shift rotations. His wife Keri and six-year-old son Rylan are in Edmonton. 

Just before his night shift, the oilsands site supervisor sat Friday night recalling his recent misfortunes. His friend Marek Petercak popped by with two large cups of Tim Hortons coffee. 

Schurman thumbed through pictures of the two gutted properties as he sipped his coffee.

Jason Schurman lives in a trailer when in Fort McMurray while waiting on an insurance settlement for his home that was destroyed in the 2016 wildfire. (David Thurton/CBC )
He said the chimneys were one of the few things that remained recognizable. Dealing with the losses hasn't been easy for Schurman.

"I try to use humour to deflect some of the feelings that come," he said. "It's a lot to process. I wouldn't want anyone else to go through it."

Petercak said he will crack the odd joke too, in hopes of helping his friend forget about the loss, even if just for a second. "If I can throw a joke to deflect from thinking about the seriousness of things. Anything he needs he knows that I am there for him," he said.

'It's mind blowing'

Schurman's B.C. home was a log cabin with a sunlit porch and offered views of a canyon and a glacier-fed river. It was his first home and his son's first years were spent there.

The last few weeks have been such a whirlwind that he can't remember the exact date in July he got the text message from his tenant saying his B.C. log home went up in smoke. 

"The statistical probability of having two houses in two separate provinces being detrimentally affected by a wildfire, it's got to be nil," Schurman said. "It's mind-blowing. It's impossible to conceive until it happens and then you are like, 'wow.'"

Friends like Marek Petercak help Jason Schurman come to terms with his ordeal. (David Thurton/CBC)

Sorting through the nightmare of insurance claims from the house in Fort McMurray has been a full-time job. Living on credit while working to get a settlement has turned his family's finances "upside down," Schurman said.

Personal and financial hit

"The personal resources it takes from a financial and family perspective, it takes a lot to do that," Schurman said.

Schurman hasn't spoken to his boy Rylan about losing the B.C. home, in a bid to shelter him from another tragedy.

The aftermath of losing homes in two wildfires still hasn't hit him, he says. Sometimes he wonders if he's in a dream.

"Of all people, why does it have to happen to good people?" Petercak asked.

Schurman said the support he's received from friends and family has kept him going through an especially difficult time.

"I'll be honest, if there wasn't that support from friends, from family, from co-workers and bosses," Schurman said, "It would make it hard to be strong. Guaranteed."

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