'NON-STOP': When disaster strikes, Kamloops ranch owner is there | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops News

'NON-STOP': When disaster strikes, Kamloops ranch owner is there

Sageview Ranch owner in Kamloops, Kelly Kennedy, surrounded by dogs she has rescued.

A sprawling 43-acre ranch in Kamloops has been a safe haven for countless displaced people, pets and livestock over the past few years.

The owner of Sageview Ranch, Kelly Kennedy, has provided life-saving transports and boarding during the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire, the fires and floods of 2021, and most recently a fatal accident on the Coquihalla.

“We are within city limits on city water,” she said. “The city fire department and the airport fire department can come here. We’re pretty safe, and pretty big.”

Kennedy is known to RCMP who phone her when disasters involving livestock strike. She not only provides a safe landing for people and animals, she also spends hours rescuing animals out of dangerous situations and transporting them to safety.

She has even rented a helicopter in the past to transport animals, something she said has never been done in Canada. 

READ MORE: Skeetchestn First Nation evacuated due to Elephant Hill fire

Her rescue work began in 2017.

“The fire in Ashcroft broke out and the trailer park burned down and the whole town was evacuated,” Kennedy said. “We were taking dog food to the emergency centre at MacArthur Island, and we saw a whole bunch of people, including little kids, sitting there at midnight, in the dark, with nowhere to go.”

With the centre backed up, Kennedy got to work bringing 27 displaced folks from Ashcroft to the ranch setting them up in horse trailers with living quarters and travel trailers on the property.

“Helpful friends with travel trailers brought them and parked them,” she said. “The people stayed for several weeks, and we made it work. Then we had some people from Hundred Mile join us in their own travel trailers.”

Kennedy’s retired mom joined in, cooking three meals a day while people came in and out of the basement to have showers.

Kennedy brought 126 displaced animals to the ranch that fire season and others brought their own, totalling around 150, plus 200 chickens and some peacocks.

“At that time, we were feeding on our own hay and then it worked out that people brought their own feed until we ended up getting donated hay in here,” she said. "Then people started stealing it because you could just drive right in here and it was a desperate time for everybody.”

READ MORE: UPDATE: Evacuation orders for Cache Creek as Ashcroft wildfire approaches

Kennedy said the fires of 2017 in the region were not as bad as last year’s.

“Last summer I was going around the clock for weeks,” she said. “I hit every fire, I hauled out 72 head and we had other people bring in about 50 head. It was just non-stop.”

Kennedy travelled to Lytton, Monte Creek and Lower Nicola. 

“I was brought into Lytton with a police escort and got some remaining animals that were still alive, wandering around,” she said. “It was unreal there with dead goats and people's dead pets lying around.”

Kennedy said she hauled ten loads of displaced livestock out of Merritt and around the Lower Nicola, and some from Monte Lake, almost getting trapped at one point when the fire raged down the mountain and crossed the highway.

She stays calm under fire, doing her best to respond effectively in emergency situations while people are going through loss, and fear and emotions. She seems to be a rock when needed.

“I have my moments on my own time,” she said. “Everyone says I’m an adrenaline junky. I just dive in when it is needed, I don’t really think about it.”

A pen of miniature ponies at Sageview Ranch in Kamloops.
A pen of miniature ponies at Sageview Ranch in Kamloops.

Following months of deadly wildfires, the floods hit Merritt and surrounding communities when the Coldwater River changed its course and overflowed its banks, destroying towns and crucial roadways.

“RCMP called me to say there were animals trapped and they would have to put them down as there was no way to drive in or out,” Kennedy said. “I rented a helicopter for two days, carrying three horses, a pregnant cow, three goats, 14 dogs and an illegal monkey out of the flooded areas.”

READ MORE: Spences Bridge woman lost everything in floods, needs to bring therapy horse home

As director of the B.C. Horse Council, Kennedy had access to an emergency relief fund for the helicopter, but said in the end, CTV News paid for the whole thing.

Kennedy said this year has been relatively quiet, other than a call from authorities to pick up horses that were involved a deadly collision on the Coquihalla Highway on Oct. 22.

“This was my first fatality, and the victim was a young man,” she said. “It is very sad.”

READ MORE: One person dead, another injured following Coquihalla crash involving horses

Kennedy was able to safely retrieve the five horses, but also involved in the fatal accident were two dogs, one of which is a rottweiler that was supposed to be transported to Alberta.

“The airlines won’t fly a rotti, so in the end, it was decided he would just stay here with me.”

Chaser the rotti is by far not the only animal that has ended up living on the ranch out of the ashes of disaster. In fact, Kennedy now has a whole collection of animals, from dogs, to cows, to donkeys to miniature ponies.

Kelly Kennedy with some rescued animals on her Sageview Ranch in Kamloops.
Kelly Kennedy with some rescued animals on her Sageview Ranch in Kamloops.

“People will refuse to take them back and just leave them here,” she said.

Kennedy said she has formed wonderful lifelong friendships and connections through working with so many others through adversity.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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