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A new normal for Williams Lake

Residents and services are slowly coming back: see story for information on services provided by Cariboo Memorial Hospital and the Salvation Army
Services such as the Salvation Army’s Emergency Response Team are assisting residents with the transition of coming home. (Angie Mindus photo)

Williams Lake is slowly starting to fill up with people again.

Residents are returning to the lakecity one day after officials announced their intention to lift the evacuation order for the city and many surrounding rural areas and replace it with an alert.

As the evacuees return, so are some of the many services of the urban centre.

The parking lot at the Resiliency Centre, a one-stop care centre for evacuees located in Boitanio Mall, was full by mid-morning Friday, July 28 and downtown grocery stores were open for business.

The downtown area was also starting to look more alive as small business owners such as The Open Book re-opened their shops.

Providing some relief for anxious residents, the Cariboo Fire Centre issued an update Friday morning stating there has been no significant growth of nearby wildfires, despite a wind event the night before.

According to Interior Health (IH), health services provided by IH will be restored in phases, now that a wildfire evacuation order has been lifted for the community.

The Cariboo Memorial Hospital (CMH) emergency department is open for 24/7 urgent patient care. Outpatient lab and X-ray services will resume at CMH on Friday, July 28.

IH officials still caution evacuees however that while the evacuation order has been lifted, an evacuation alert remains in place and air quality within the region continues to fluctuate due to wildfire activity.

“Poor air quality can be harmful to health, especially for children, older adults, and those with heart and lung conditions.”

Other hospital services (including acute inpatient beds, scheduled surgeries, oncology, and hospital-based clinics) will remain closed at this time. Individuals requiring ongoing hospital-based care may be transferred to alternate facilities. Maternity patients may still need to be redirected or transferred to alternate facilities for their deliveries until the maternity unit re-opens.

“Wherever possible, Interior Health staff has remained in contact with home support, home health and Mental Health Substance Use (MHSU) clients from the Williams Lake area. IH will support access to local services as clients return to the community. While full services resume locally, clients should take note of the following:

For urgent needs, MHSU clients should call 250-305-8496 to speak to a MHSU nurse or visit the emergency department. Additional MHSU staff will be available to support those returning to the community.

Home support and home health clients who have urgent needs should call 250-305-4071 or visit the emergency department.

IH encourages individuals to contact their family physician’s office directly for information on hours of operation during this re-entry phase.”

IH continues planning for the staged return of other regular services at CMH, and the return of residents to IH’s residential care facility Deni House and residents and assisted living clients to IH’s contracted partner site, Williams Lake Seniors Village.

“Decisions regarding these vulnerable individuals as well as services for oncology (chemotherapy) and renal patients will be based on the lifting of any remaining alerts, local air quality, and wildfire activity in the region.”

CMH was closed on July 15 due to the city-wide evacuation order but had already evacuated acute care patients from CMH, residents from Deni House, and residents and assisted living clients from Williams Lake Seniors Village the previous week as a precautionary measure.

The Salvation Army is also onsite in Williams Lake providing practical support to those affected by BC wildfires. Emergency Response Teams are currently offering food, water, and Emotional and Spiritual Support to people re-entering.

The team is stationed outside the Williams Lake Resiliency Centre where they are providing information for those previously displaced by the fires. The Salvation Army Meal Centre and Foodbank will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner tomorrow to meet the ongoing needs of members preparing for the unknown.

“Residents of Williams Lake are feeling some form of relief returning home, but also great uncertainty as an evacuation alert remains in effect,” says Derland Orsted of The Salvation Army. “We are honored to offer support in the midst of these challenging days.”

Additional Salvation Army Response Teams are in place offering Feeding Services, Meet and Greet Services, and Emotional and Spiritual support at 7 ESS Reception Centres to remaining evacuees across the province.

Williams Lake (Active)

Salvation Army Team is in place outside the Resiliency Centre serving snacks and beverages and offering Emotional and Spiritual support.


Community Response Unit is onsite and feeding evacuees at Sandman Centre. Additional CRT #4 crew on site to offer further feeding assistance to new Monte Lake fire evacuees.

Prince George

The Salvation Army EDS is onsite feeding evacuees and volunteers at College of New Caledonia. Additional Salvation Army personnel are offering Emotional and Spiritual Support at the College of New Caledonia and at UNBC. Warehouse is now in place to store donations from public.


The Salvation Army Church on 1480 Sutherland Ave. is set up as a Reception Centre. Teams are offering feeding services, Emotional and Spiritual Support, and Meet and greet services.


The Salvation Army feeding Team is onsite in Chilliwack Group Lodging lending practical support to evacuees.


Salvation Army personnel onsite with CRU #10 at Group Lodging Facility providing meals and snacks daily in addition to Meet and Greet Services and Emotional and Spiritual Care.


Salvation Army Community Response Unit is onsite feeding evacuees at the Cloverdale group lodging site.

Members of the Williams Lake Fire Department gave residents a warm welcome home Thursday evening along Highway 97. (Angie Mindus photo)

Angie Mindus

About the Author: Angie Mindus

A desire to travel led me to a full-time photographer position at the Williams Lake Tribune in B.C.’s interior.
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