Manager of community safety Dave Dickson (second from left) and volunteers Irene Wilsie (left), Eva Navrot, Ed Oliver, Gaylene Desautels and Mark Desautels activated the Emergency Social Services centre at Lake City Secondary School Thursday in anticipation of Williams Lake possibly receiving wildfire evacuees from areas west of Prince George. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Williams Lake ESS activated for possible arrival of wildfire evacuees from west of Prince George

Once Prince George reaches 100 per cent capacity they will be directed to Williams Lake

Anticipating wildfires evacuees may arrive in Williams Lake from west of Prince George the City activated its Emergency Social Services (ESS) reception centre Thursday at Lake City Secondary School on Carson Drive.

“Prince George asked us yesterday if we would be willing to take people that are being evacuated, especially from the west part of Vanderhoof, Fort St James due to the Shovel Lake fire,” said manager of community safety Dave Dickson Thursday as volunteers began setting up in the school’s entrance way. “We of course said ‘yes,’ because they were really outstanding to us last year. It’s just the right thing to do.”

If Prince George gives Dickson notice that it is at 100 per cent capacity in hosting evacuees then Williams Lake will be ready to go, he added.

“I think likely what will be happening is that people from out west will be self-evacuating and will know that they should come to Williams Lake once that’s made official. There will likely be people coming with their own vehicles but there will be people who do not have their own transportation. What that is going to look like, I’m not sure yet, but we will work out those details.”

As of the morning of Aug. 16, the Shovel Lake Wildfire, which is situated approximately 6.7 kilometres northwest of Endako, approximately 30 kilometres northeast of Burns Lake and approximately 54 km southwest of Ft. St. James, is listed at 68,375.0 hectares.

An evacuation order and alert was expanded on Aug. 15, and remains in effect for the Shovel Lake wildfire.

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako has also issued a Declaration of State of Local Emergency due to the immediate danger of the fire.

Read more: Shovel Lake expanded evacuation order

Structural protection is currently being conducted in the community of Fort St. James, the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, and the north shore of Fraser Lake.

Eva Navrot will be managing the ESS during the day and Mark Desautels in the evening.

Both of them volunteered last year and said they are glad to be helping again.

“Last year was super hectic and I feel like we are more organized now and we are preparing ahead of time, which is wonderful,” Navrot said. “We have the experience as well so I think it will run more smoothly.”

Desautels enjoys the chance to give something back, he said.

“I’m not capable of going out and fighting a fire or anything, so it is kind of neat to be able to help somehow,” Desautels said. “I felt frustrated last year because I couldn’t help and then when we started volunteering it felt really good.”

It’s what “us” old people do, he added with a chuckle.

Dickson said anyone wanting to volunteer is asked to go to the ESS and register.

There were about 100 volunteers active in the ESS during the 2017 wildfires and some of them have stepped up to the plate again, however, if anyone new wants to volunteer there will be training available.

For now the ESS will remain open for seven days and be assessed again in a week.

“The weather appears to be more of the same and no rain in the forecast and the fires are status quo,” he added.

Dickson said the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce would be phoning the hotels and motels in Williams Lake Thursday morning to determine who is willing to take evacuees and if they have pet friendly rooms.

Dickson has been assisting at the Cariboo Regional District emergency operations centre since a week ago Thursday.

“I’ve been working with Quesnel and 100 Mile House to take care of all the people that have been displaced,” he said.

At this time, the ESS is not accepting donations.

Read more: Williams Lake fire Dept. structure protection crew assisting in other regions

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