As I sit and write this, we are a month past our first warning of the impending fires.
July and almost half of August have been taken up with the turmoil resulting from evacuation alerts and orders throughout the City of Williams Lake and Cariboo region.
As a community we must all be thankful for the many individuals and organizations as well as good neighbours who have pulled together to get us this far.
We have been really lucky within the city boundaries with no loss of structures or, more importantly, lives.
Many of our neighbours have not been that fortunate, and my heart goes out to them.
Many of our volunteers and assistance that came from other areas were quite visible, such as the RCMP, Army, the structural firefighters in the Stampede Grounds and of course the front-line firefighters who have come from all over the world.
Many have been displaced from their homes and families to assist, which is a sacrifice we all appreciate.
The structural firefighters have come from all over the province, including Salmon Arm, Salt Spring Island, Courtenay, Hope, and Peachland to name but a few of the 40-plus departments that provided much-needed support. We were also fortunate to have support from Structural Protection Units from B.C., as well as Alberta and Ontario.
Once the City’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) was activated at the Williams Lake fire hall, there were between 12 to 15 staff members working incredibly long hours every day.
Our volunteer city firefighters were on call 24 hours a day, with as many as 20 on site at all times.
Some EOC staff and firefighters slept on cots, and some brought their travel trailers or campers, myself included.
Hats off to the volunteer cooks who fed the crews that were there.
Some of the other assistance that has been made available to the EOC were: three from the District of Mission (Planning, IT, and Logistics), one from the District of West Vancouver (Logistics), two from the City of Vancouver (Planning and Communications), one from the District of Squamish with EOC management experience and one from the Village of Lumby (Information).
These individuals were not all here at the same time, but provided relief to our staff as needed.
These individuals make themselves available through the Provincial Emergency Management Program to provide emergency help when disaster hits.
One of the individuals who helped out for the city had just arrived home from the floods in the Okanagan and was re-deployed here, then moved on to assist in Prince George.
The Cariboo Regional District operates a separate EOC, so it has as many or more of those people who have come to help when requested.
These individuals are part of a team that receives training throughout the year, and come with various levels of experience and skill sets – they are willing to help out where it is needed.
I know we are all hoping and praying for relief from this situation, which is unprecedented in our area.
There have been many positives throughout this emergency, and I am proud to be a part of this strong, resilient community.
Take care, everyone.