Canadian Red Cross’s Adam Moreash, case worker (left), Jessica Pye, safety and well-being advisor, Jon Jackson, operations manager, Susan Shepherd, administration, Pratyush Dhawan, project officer with community partnership program, Roberta Jorimann, case worker and Sheila Jorhal, case worker were all members of the Williams Lake team working out of the office on Broadway Avenue North, which closed permanently on Friday, Nov. 29. (Monica Lamb-Yorski - Williams Lake Tribune)

Canadian Red Cross closes Williams Lake wildfire recovery office

Services, supports will continue

Canadian Red Cross has closed its office space in Williams Lake after having one in the city since the beginning of the 2017 wildfires in July 2017.

Elysia Dempsey, director of emergency management programs for B.C. and Yukon, said after operating from a temporary location in Boitanio Mall Canadian Red Cross then moved into a space on Broadway Avenue North which it held for just over one year.

“We are not leaving town and will still be here to support the community long-term,” Dempsey told the Tribune during an open house to mark the closing of the office space. “We just did not need this big office space anymore. We are still supporting a handful of clients and we still have more than 100 active community partnerships, specifically focused on mental health and disaster risk reduction.”

Several clients are still connected with a case worker.

The office was used as a central hub to provide recovery services to individuals and households and serving impacted communities, she noted.

“Housing repair and restructuring programs have mainly been run out of here. We’ve also been running community partnerships out of this program for a number of partnerships in the area.”

Read more: Wildfire recovery support services continue

Initially there were offices in Kamloops and 100 Mile House as well as Williams Lake and three outreach teams that were going out, mainly impacted communities impacted by the 2018 wildfires because of the vast geological spread.

“We needed to be mobile and meet in communities.”

More than 33,000 households were assisted with recovery needs, including from the very start with relief financial support people received when they were evacuated.

“In this office, the support has been more in depth to impacted households and people who had major damage to destroyed homes from the fires,” Dempsey said, confirming that some people have not rebuilt from the fires. “That could be because some people are not sure if they want to rebuild or do something different. Others are still working with an insurance agency.”

At the height there were upwards of 45 to 50 people working to support the operation and that has been reduced to a team of eight people.

“We are still here to support the community with a focus of capacity building. We want to ensure we are alongside to support the community in any future disasters.”

Read more: Red Cross to host disaster management info sessions in Cariboo

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