B.C. wildfires, evacuations don’t stop Yellowknife couple from welcoming 1st child – North

Amidst evacuations and chaos as wildfires rage in northern B.C., one couple — originally from Yellowknife — has ample reason to celebrate.

Sheldon Peart and Amber Jeannotte grew up in Yellowknife, but moved to the small town of Williams Lake, B.C., a few years ago. The town, beset by wildfires, issued an evacuation order on July 15, with the hospital clearing out days earlier.

That would have been fine for the young couple, who say their house is in the centre of town and isn’t in danger, if not for one thing: Jeannotte was pregnant and, by early July, she was already a couple of days late.

“We went in a couple of days before to ask what the protocol was going to be once I went into labour,” said Jeannotte. “And they really didn’t know, they didn’t have an answer for us.

“I was kind of debating leaving town because I did not want to give birth on the road.”

However, her doctor advised against leaving, saying she would ride in an ambulance with Jeannotte if the city was forced to evacuate. The couple made the decision: they were in it for the long haul.

‘It kind of made everything go away’

By the time Jeannotte went into labour, the hospital had been evacuated. She had contractions at home for two days before heading into the emergency room — the only area of the hospital still staffed. A small maternity ward had been moved to accommodate new mothers.

“We were kind of in a makeshift room they had,” she said. “It was kind of eerie, because it was pretty empty. There wasn’t much, there wasn’t any doctors.”

Concerned about the encroaching wildfires, Jeannotte’s doctor chose to speed up her labour with an epidural and oxytocin. It was the couple’s first pregnancy, which Peart says may have been a blessing in disguise.

“We don’t know any different, so it was fine,” said the new dad.

“There were a lot of unknowns. They didn’t really have any concrete answers on what the procedures were when [the hospital] was evacuated, what is expected…

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