Firefighter training, fire department equipment and VHF radio repeaters will be seeing an influx of cash soon.
Over $64,000 has been donated to Rotary clubs throughout the Cariboo for wildfire recovery and prevention efforts.
Rotary District 5040 governor Don Evans was in the Cariboo last week to give out the money — $16,000 to each of the four clubs spread from 100 Mile House to Quesnel.
“It started when the fires were burning,” said Evans.
He touched base with his partner governor in Alberta to see what was done by Rotary following the Fort McMurray fires.
The answer was a wildfire fund.
The district, which stretches from Tsawwassen to Prince Rupert, set up an account and started accepting donations.
One of the first cheques written came from the club in Fort McMurray.
Donations came from as far away as Ontario, said Evans, and individuals also donated to the fund.
“It’s just built over time. This month, what we are doing is we are just dispersing all of the funds.”
The Rotary district asked each club to come up with a project for the donations, that would go to either wildfire prevention or long-term sustainable recovery.
“What the clubs have put forward are mostly around future prevention which is exciting. The creative things each of the clubs have put forward, from just training the volunteer firefighters so they don’t have to stand and watch, so they are certified to take action. These are important steps that can make a difference should a similar thing start in the future,” said Evans.
In Williams Lake, the Daybreak Rotary Club will be using their $16,000 to support the Cariboo Chilcotin Amateur Radio Society in upgrading the VHF radio repeater network from Anahim Lake to Williams Lake.
“Is another essential service out in the remote areas where there is no cell service outside of the Highway 97 corridor,” said Williams Lake Daybreak President Ingolf Sandberg.
“The whole purpose of this money was to be able to support groups in where the money has not been available. Communication is huge to get the word out and not just with fires but all kinds of different types of emergencies.”
For the Rotary Club of Williams Lake, they are planning on training and providing basic forest firefighting equipment and training to Riske Creek, Alexis Creek, Tatla Lake and Anahim Lake.
Thanks to the $16,000 from the fund, plus another $10,000 in a grant from the Rotary District, $5,000 from the two truckers associations in town, and another $5,000 from the Williams Lake Stampede Association’s wildfire fundraiser, as well as the hope of funding from the Red Cross, the club is looking to provide basic S100 courses in the communities, as well as other equipment.
“These areas are in the heart of the fires and they are a long ways away. When resources are limited they are the last to get them. This provides some opportunity for them to deal with fires in their backyard and knowledge of what is going on and equipment which they didn’t have,” said Guenter Weckerle, who is co-ordinating the project for the Rotary Club of Williams Lake.
They’ll also be working with both the Quesnel and Williams Lake Rotary clubs to help them procure equipment for local fire departments in those areas, as well with their own donations.
Evans and his wife Deb are on their third trip to the area since Evans has become governor. The first took place over Stampede weekend, and the second took place shortly after the fires. They also visited Prince George when much of the Cariboo was evacuated.
“We know that the long-term effects of the fires are still being felt with people that didn’t return and businesses that didn’t make it through,” said Evans. “But we see optimism and we see the communities getting going again, so that is encouraging.”