First school in Vavenby, built in 1917, close to Skookumchuck Creek. First teacher was Miss Mellish. (Upper North Thompson Reflections)

First school in Vavenby, built in 1917, close to Skookumchuck Creek. First teacher was Miss Mellish. (Upper North Thompson Reflections)

Valley Voices: Vavenby ‘heritage home’ lost to fire

By Robyn Rexin

On April 9, 2021, there was a house fire on Vavenby Bridge Road at 4:00 p.m.

Ken Miller was barbecuing when he went inside to grab something. When he turned around, the house was engulfed in flames. He yelled out to everyone to get out of the house. His wife Melody and their oldest daughter Tessa, escaped the fire. Tess dialed 911 on her cell phone and grabbed their three dogs.

The family also had three cats, only one of which they managed to find.

Ten firefighters and four fire trucks responded to the call. The firefighters were there fighting the blaze for six hours. Flames from the barbecue on the deck got into the eaves. The fire went up into the attic and spread quickly. Unfortunately, the house was a complete loss.

Firefighters had to use an excavator to tear the remains down in order to enter the area and mop up. It was unsafe to do otherwise.

This house, a somewhat historic building, had been built as a school for all grades in 1917. It stood on the south side of the Thompson River, and additions were made in 1951.

Children who lived on the north side of the river rode across on the ferry to get to and from school. When the river was frozen, they would walk across on the ice. A bridge wasn’t built until 1949.

The school was turned into a community hall in the late ‘50s, after the new school was built on the playground. It was used for dances, wedding receptions, family gatherings, children’s Christmas parties, funeral receptions and meeting, among many other things.

It was sold after the new and larger community hall was built on Vavenby Bridge Road. The owners turned it into a home, to which many referred to as a “heritage home.”

A GoFundMe, set up by Melody’s sister Joanne Laderoute, has raised $25,310 to help the fire impacted family.

“One hundred per cent goal reached!” an update posted by Laderoute reads. “We are very grateful to everyone that has supported the Millers through this very difficult time…we are most humbled by your support.”

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