Cynthia Bentley feared that nine months of wedding planning had gone up in flames.
The 65-year-old Century 21 Lakeside realtor was evacuated when the Bush Creek East Wildfire raged through Celista on Aug. 18.
Believing she, her husband-to-be and guests would not be able to use the Squilax-Anglemont Road to travel to their wedding venue near Seymour Arm on Sept. 9, Bentley was sure her wedding dreams were shattered.
“Call the Columbia Shuswap Regional District Emergency Operations Centre,” her daughter, Jolene, advised. “What have you got to lose? They may say no, but again, they may say yes.”
The response to her Sept. 2 call was an enthusiastic “yes” from CSRD Chief Administrative Officer and EOC Director-of-the-day John MacLean.
“Tell her we will do whatever it takes to make sure her wedding goes ahead,” he responded with a huge grin, while others excitedly suggested moving the wedding party and guests over the lake by barge.
Overwhelmed with relief, Bentley sobbed at the news that she and Gord Stevens would be married within the week.
“You are my fairy godmother,” she said tearfully.
The couple’s journey to matrimony has been a difficult one.
Bentley and Stevens met for a second time in 2019. Their renewed friendship blossomed into romance and the future looked bright. But at the end of August 2021, Stevens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
So began a frightening and life-threatening medical battle that resulted in Stevens being placed in an induced coma.
“When he came out of the coma he said, ‘the first person I thought of was you. I had to live to be with you,’” said Bentley with emotion. “I knew then he was going to make it.”
Plans to have a wedding in beautiful off-grid Seymour Arm, a place they both love, began, only to be threatened by the Bush Creek East wildfire.
Shattered by the prospect of not being able to marry as planned, Bentley said she and her guests were overwhelmed by the regional district’s willingness to make the wedding happen.
“Our wedding guests couldn’t believe they would do it,” she says. “People cared and wanted something good to come out of something so tragic.”
At the wedding, Bentley wore red, the colour of love, and her daughter’s dress was yellow to symbolize hope. She was given away by sons Jason and Jory, and her son John’s four-year-old daughter, Miley, acted as her flower girl.
Although the Squilax-Anglemont Road had opened in time for guests, photographer and caterer to make their way to Seymour Arm last Saturday, Bentley remains grateful to the CSRD.
“The intent was always there, and I think that was the important part,” she says. “Wow! Somebody actually listened, heard and cared.”
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