The cots are empty and the hallways quiet at Chilliwack secondary school as volunteers await the arrival of wildfire evacuees from Williams Lake.
Nearly 30,000 people are affected by the evacuation. They headed south in a long, slow moving convoy to reception centres in Kamloops. Behind them, a wildfire which has already consumed at least 9,400 hectares of forest, was being fanned by fresh winds. It cut off escape to the north, leaving highway 97 and 24 the only routes south.
Once the Kamloops centres are full, they’ll continue on to Chilliwack.
The first evacuees are expected sometime this morning. They’ll find a reception centre where they can register online and alert friends and family of their whereabouts, and access emergency support. Cots have been set up in the gymnasium, and quiet areas set aside for families.
Chris Wilson, emergency program co-ordinator for the City of Chilliwack, says volunteers have done a remarkable job, and he praised the Chilliwack school district for accomodating the evacuation centre at CSS.
How to Help
People willing to offer accommodations for the evacuees have two options, says Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz. There is a Facebook group that people can access, or they can go to Chilliwack secondary and put their name on a list. If there is an opportunity to help, volunteers will contact them.
Gaetz says the immediate needs of the evacuees are being met. And while she undertstands the desire to help, material donations are not required. “Many don’t know the condition of their house or what they will need when they return home,” she says.
Instead, cash donations to the Red Cross remain the best way to help.
“Please continue to donate funds to the Red Cross, as this organization will be involved after the evacuees return home and assess their needs. Donations can be made in person on Monday to the Red Cross in Chilliwack at 9290 Mary St.”
People wanting to volunteer can also go Chilliwack secondary. Although Wilson says they currently have enough volunteers to meet current needs, people wanting to help can still register and may be called upon if required.
Watch theprogress.com for updates as they become available.