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VIDEO: Chilliwack volunteers jumped into action to help Barrowtown sand-bagging

Yarrow was dry the morning after residents were evacuated, said Chilliwack Mayor
A contingent of Chilliwack volunteers helped Abbotsford officials by sandbagging the Barrowtown pump station on Nov. 16, 2021. (Thomas Thalen/Instagram screenshot)

Chilliwack residents rushed to assist a late-night sandbagging effort overnight Tuesday (Nov. 16) at the Barrowtown pump station in Abbotsford.

City of Chilliwack crews, contractors and residents came out to help Abbotsford Fire Rescue officials, filling sandbags through the night to prevent catastrophic flooding if the pump station failed.

“Yarrow is dry,” Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove reported Wednesday morning. “I think we will be okay.”

The mayor said he was incredibly grateful for the more than 200 sand-bagging volunteers including city staff who showed up in the middle of the night to help.

“The pump station is a crucial piece of infrastructure for the entire region,” Popove said.

By 9 a.m. officials were watching and waiting for the Fraser River levels to drop another metre to remove the pressing threat on the Barrowtown pump station.

The situation is being monitored closely by City of Chilliwack staff after the entire community of Yarrow had to be evacuated Tuesday (Nov. 16) due to the risk of flooding. Yarrow has more than 1,000 homes and 3,300 people, and was the only part of Chilliwack still at risk.

Coun. Jason Lum, also a resident of Yarrow, said he was proud of the community response, and gave a situation report when it was clear Wednesday morning that Barrowtown pumps were still running at full capacity.

“Thank you to the amazing volunteer contingent, largely from Chilliwack, who answered the call to sandbag in the cold,” Lum posted, adding: “I’m proud of all of you, and my family and I thank you for helping keep our home dry.”

By midnight officials at the pump station had to ask folks to stay away since they had enough volunteers.

Any residents who had not yet evacuated from Yarrow were being urged by City of Chilliwack officials to leave immediately by late Tuesday night.

“Further to the evacuation ordered for the community of Yarrow earlier today, we urge all residents that have not yet evacuated the area to leave immediately due to an imminent threat to life and safety,” said the notice on Nov. 16 after 9 p.m. “The City continues to monitor the situation and will post updates as more information becomes available.”

The flood watch updates from city officials are being posted here several times a day with details like evacuation routes and road closures.

The evacuation rolled out fairly smoothly, Popove added, as residents were leaving Yarrow and heading east into Chilliwack to register with emergency support services, or stay with friends or family. To date 642 residents have registered with ESS, 160 stayed at Evergreen Hall, and 30 at the Land Sports Centre, he added.

A community effort has also come together to help displaced residents without a place to stay. Tourism Ch’illiwack, Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, and City of Chilliwack joined forces to help support ESS, and help evacuees find housing and shelter, with a centralized database and Facebook group for information.

They are using the Chilliwack Emergency Host Families group to act as a hub for information for those needing or offering a play to stay.

Anyone seeking shelter/housing as an evacuee can call 604-392-1183 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Any Chilliwack residents with space available and are willing to take in evacuees can email Leanna Kemp, to register.

“We want to thank our community for coming together during the events and aftermath of these last few days,” said Leanna Kemp of the Chilliwack Chamber. “Thank you to the first responders, volunteers, and everyone who have been selflessly helping those in need!

They are not however able to perform background checks on residents or evacuees at this time.

“Any participants taking part in this initiative do so at their own risk.”

Evacuees were directed to register with Emergency Support Services (ESS) Reception Centre inside the Neighbourhood Learning Centre at 46363 Yale Road. More ESS support was being offered at the Chilliwack Landing Sports Centre at 45530 Spadina Avenue, and at Evergreen Hall.

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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