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From the frontlines: wildfire recovery

Posted: August 4, 2017

Preparing for evacuees at 100 Mile House.

This is a guest blog by Geralyn Alain, Director of Marketing & Communications, United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo.

“I am extremely anxious. I don’t know what to expect, and what if we’re denied for any help? What then? I’ve been crying a lot.”

Social media posts like this have been common over the past month as wildfires tear across forests, farms and homes in British Columbia. Nearly 50,000 individuals communities have been placed on alert, evacuated and in some cases, have lost their homes and livelihoods.

Other than air quality, my hometown of Kamloops in the Interior has been thankfully untouched by this devastation. Our United Way has been supporting those on the ground since day one during emergency response, and helping to coordinate donations and volunteers as thousands of evacuees flooded our city.

Even as the wildfires rage on, United Ways in B.C. are now looking to the next phase of this disaster – recovery and rebuilding.

We have seen an outpouring of support from across Canada so far. From a group from Vancouver Island hauling 1500 salmon filets to host community dinners to welcome people coming home, to countless trucks full of supplies like the one coordinated by North Delta MLA, Ravi Kahlon and Trail Appliances, it has been awe-inspiring to see people rallying to support other British Columbians.

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to 100 Mile House and Williams Lake to prepare for the re-entry of 26,000 people to the Cariboo. As we offered cleaning supplies, bags of groceries, toiletries and information on bc211, I met many people as they came through the Resiliency Centre. While many were eager to get home, a common sentiment was shared. What’s next?

Many people think that once evacuation orders are lifted, everything goes back to normal. This is the furthest thing from the truth as those affected try to get their bearings upon their return. It is hard to find normalcy when you are still on alert with fires continuing to burn just past the outskirts of town and your family is trying to make ends meet after weeks without work. The lingering haze of smoke and having to be at the ready to leave with a half-hour’ notice does not help either.

Throughout this all, United Way is doing what we do best – supporting and building communities. With the United for BC Wildfires fund, we will be there for the long haul to invest in the intricate web of agencies needed to deal with the stress, financial burden and other complex social issues that will arise from the fallout of this disaster in the years to come.

Food tables set up for wildfire evacuees at 100 Mile House.

United Way tables set up at the Resiliency Centre in 100 Mile House.

Children dig in near Ashcroft.

Children help themselves to some food at the Resiliency Centre near Ashcroft.

North Delta MLA, Ravi Kahlon arranged for a truck load of non-perishable items to be driven up to help wildfire evacuees with the help of Trail Appliances.