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Volunteers work to keep hope afloat on Sumas Prairie

Abbotsford, B.C. -

The journey may not be long.

But it some ways, it feels like another planet.

Barns silent and still where there were once cattle and chickens.

Roads transformed into what feel like unpredictable rivers.

The only sounds on the eastern end of Sumas Prairie: the sheeting rain, the lapping waves, and the low roar of our jet boat, one of many vessels trying to keep hope afloat.

We’ve hitched a ride with 23-year-old Jon Reeves.

He’s a man of few words, but one with a big heart.

He normally runs the OK Tire shop in town with his dad and brother; he’s a proud one-third shareholder.

But over the last few days, since the flood waters rose, with nature trying to reclaim the lake that once covered these rich agriculture lands, he’s done nothing but rescues.

“Everything from…a pet crocodile, to calves, to people,” Reeves says.

He’s not a hero, he says, just a guy with a boat.

We put in where the water swallows the pavement.

Sierra Burroughs, 21, who has lived on the prairie some 12 years with her family, and her friend, Trinity Carlow, pile in.

Yesterday, she salvaged her cat, Peanut.

Today, she’s hoping to see if she can grab photo albums, but Reeves’ mission, ultimately, is to find pets or livestock in need.

Before we shove off, he receives yet another plea.

The list, he tells me, keeps growing.

Two dogs and a cat, plus a man’s life savings.

Inside an RV.

Somewhere out here.

A few minutes later, we near the Burroughs home.

There's water halfway up the first floor.

Oddly, the electricity is still on.

It’s not safe to stay.

Burroughs didn’t bring the right keys.

The photos and laptops will have to wait.

“It’s heartbreaking, because we feel so hopeless,” Burroughs says.

But the spirit of hope is still alive – though out here, there’s no time to reflect.

Every minute brings its own risks, like floating debris, or unexpected high ground.

Reeves shouts “Grate!” and I run to the back. He kills the engine.

I jump up and down on a metal bar on the stern, clearing out the muck caged up underneath.

After we nearly run aground, Reeves somehow finds our destination.

A skiff with three men, who look official to me, is parked out front.

Another team out to help.

Burroughs climbs up the rear ladder, onto the RV roof.

Within seconds she’s holding Mystic, the cat we’ve come to save.

Completely dry.

The dogs, Neo and Sullivan, are cold and distressed.

But alive.

Jordan Jiang, my photographer, recording every moment, shouts: “They’re just regular guys, David!”

Three guys from Abbotsford.


Covered in rain gear and life jackets.

With a small outboard, radios, and a shoestring plan.

Maybe regular in another time, or another place.

But not today.

“We went for 20 cows today,” Theo Faber says. “And unfortunately the majority were stuck in the barn in the back.”

We transfer the dogs, boat to boat.

Burroughs and Carlow try to settle them down.

We’ve been out a couple hours.

It feels like an era.

On our journey back, I look out, seeing a farm I recognize that was mostly dry on just Tuesday.

It takes me a minute to catch my breath.

And before I know it, we reach our makeshift port.

Up the hill, then off the prairie.

An hour later, we watch as Al Reimeyer reconnects with his animals – really, his family.

Elated, and at the same time, nearly in tears.

Burroughs hands over Mystic.

“Come here, it’s OK baby,” Reimeyer says.

One family reunited.

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