New ride

Connor Callaghan with the keys to his 2010 Toyota Tundra given to him by Penticton Toyota after his vehicle was stolen while he was fighting a wildfire. 

An auto dealership in Penticton has helped get a B.C. firefighter back on the road after his truck was stolen while battling the nearby Christie Mountain wildfire.

Penticton Toyota general manager Larry Pidperyhora Jr. and owner Larry Pidperyhora Sr. on Wednesday presented Connor Callaghan, a member of the Merritt Fire Devils of the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch, with the keys to a white 2010 Toyota Tundra pickup truck.

Callaghan’s last truck, a blue 2003 Tundra he bought from his dad in 2017, was taken last month while he was battling the massive wildfire just south of Penticton.

“The more I read the story about his truck and how long he had had it for, I just thought we had to do something,” said Pidperyhora Jr., who worked with Toyota Canada to give Callaghan the new wheels.

“It was just the irony of just how a firefighter is here fighting fires – risking his life to save other peoples’ homes and property – and while he’s doing that somebody destroys his property.

“We couldn’t replace that vehicle and all the memories that go along with it, but we hope the new Tundra will bring back some fond memories and it will create even more memories for him in the future.”

Callaghan said the kindness show to him by Penticton Toyota has gone a long way to restoring his faith in humanity.

“It couldn’t be nicer. It just really counteracts the gesture of the thief by the gesture of the dealership,” he said.

Callaghan’s old truck was stolen during the early morning hours of Aug. 21 from a Merritt parking lot near the firefighting base where he was stationed. He returned to the parking lot after working overnight on the Christine wildfire – his final shift of the season – to discover his truck was gone.

The truck was eventually recovered near Kamloops, but it was a write-off, and the $11,000 Callaghan received as an insurance payout wasn’t enough to replace it. An online fundraiser was launched and eventually collected over $11,000, which Callaghan now plans to donate to a good cause.

Missing from the truck were some of Callaghan’s belongings, including his iPad, laptop, camping gear, school bag and a blanket that belonged to his late grandfather, Canadian Football League hall-of-famer Gary Schreider.

Callaghan, who is in his final year in the UBC Okanagan mechanical engineering program, says he cannot thank the people enough who have helped him during this difficult time, including friends and the many others he doesn’t even know.

“You’re just doing your job and you don’t think of the impact it has on people,” he said.

“Then getting donations and people sharing their stories of the impact you have really makes it all worthwhile. I just really appreciate everything people have done to help me.”