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Some self-employed Kamloops residents taking a big hit due to B.C. wildfires

Chris Wlodarczyk, better known as Uncle Chris the Clown, has lost thousands of dollars in business because of cancellations due to wildfires.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/(Uncle Chris the Clown)
August 11, 2017 - 8:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - If being a self-employed person or owning a small business isn't hard enough, some Kamloops companies are finding times to be even tougher these days as they face lost business due to wildfires.

No one would compare their difficulties to the hardships of evacuees or others directly involved in the fires, but nor are evacuees alone with their challenges. 

Jill Byrd owns Byrd's Eye View Photography specializing in children's portraits and family photo shoots. While taking pictures is not impossible through the smoky haze, she has already cancelled several photo shoots because most of her clients are families with small children.

"Sometimes other photographers think the smoke can actually be cool, it's a different effect," says Byrd. "Unfortunately with me being a young family photographer I just think it's not right to be bringing the kids out and I don't wan't to be exposing myself to it either."

Byrd says fortunately the families that have cancelled have been understanding and will reschedule so she is not likely to lose their business, but that means she won't be able to book as many new clients when the smoke clears. She adds if the haze lingers in Kamloops she will likely have to bite the bullet and find other locations to shoot where the smoke is less thick.

The positive for Byrd and her family is her business supplements her husband's income so while she has lost some work, they aren't too worried about the financials at this point. But what if most of your income has been taken away due to fires?

That's what Chris Wlodarczyk, better known as Uncle Chris the Clown, is dealing with right now. Since the fires started in July he's had festivals in Ashcroft, Lone Butte, 100 Mile House, and Williams Lake cancel on him. Those cancellations alone have cost him over $5,000 in business over the summer.

"Kids birthday parties can be indoors so it hasn't effected me that way, but in summertime my big money-making thing is fairs, I have them all summer long," he says. "I still have other ones with Vanderhoof next weekend then Smithers after that, so my fingers are crossed that these are all going to be okay."

Wlodarczyk says he has been talking to the fair organizers about some kind of agreement where they can pay him some of what he would have made now, then credit that amount for next year.

"With some fairs there is a cancellation policy where I get paid something," he says. "But do you use that policy for something like this? You kind of feel bad even mentioning it."

Other local business owners have found ways to adapt to the smoke without losing too much business. Jo Berry owns The Run Club and says rather than running outside her groups have been using treadmills, moving their run to Sun Peaks where the air quality is better, or simply skipping the run and just spending some time together over breakfast.

"There's been a little bit more community fellowship and a lot less running for sure," she says. "But The Run Club is for peoples' mental health as well so I don't cancel sessions, I just switch things up."


To contact a reporter for this story, email Mike McDonald or call 250-819-3723 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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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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