Emergency Management BC is warning some B.C. communities may be hitting capacity with accommodations available for evacuees displaced by wildfires.
Chilliwack is one of them.
City of Chilliwack activated its emergency reception centre at Chilliwack secondary school on June 30, and since then a total of 400 people fleeing wildfires have sought emergency support services for “unmet needs” in Chilliwack, according to City of Chilliwack spokesperson Jamie Leggatt.
The reception centre has been helping evacuees impacted by wildfire who have no other means of support with temporary lodging, food, and in some cases help with transportation or pet care.
“Volunteers have already booked around 2,300 nights of hotel-room stays for evacuees,” Leggatt said.
“In advance preparation for increased hotel space constraints, we have also put a plan into place to accommodate group lodging for evacuees in Chilliwack, should it be needed.”
Shxwha:y Village also opened a reception centre this month to take those fleeing wildfires in their communities.
As of July 23 there were more than 100 evacuation alerts or evacuation orders issued, stemming from more than 270 wildfires cutting a swath of charred devastation across B.C.
Even for those with means, hotel rooms in Chilliwack are pretty much booked.
Allison Colthorp, executive director of Chilliwack Tourism, noted that since it’s “peak season” for the industry right now, it’s a challenging time with an already extremely limited supply of hotel rooms.
Also industry staffing issues are widespread in the hospitality and tourism sector, reeling from pandemic impacts.
EMBC is encouraging people to make arrangements with family and friends in advance should they be forced to evacuate.
“As the wildfire situation continues across the province, now is a good time to remind Chilliwack residents of our own risks related to wildfires and to encourage everyone to be mindful of the many actions that can start wildfires,” Leggatt added.
Wildfire preparedness info is at chilliwack.com/wildfireprep, with links to a Wildfire Preparedness Guide by BC FireSmart and the BC Office of the Fire Commissioner.
“This guide has information about what to do before, during and after a wildfire, and is a good resource for residents that want to be prepared in case of an emergency,” Leggatt added.
This week another recommendation from EMBC:
“Emergency Management BC urges people, who have self-evacuated to larger communities due to smoky conditions, to consider returning home. Because smoky conditions shift and move, self-evacuating to another community does not guarantee a person’s exposure will be reduced.
“Unnecessary relocation or travel will only add stress and anxiety that can also have negative health effects. In many communities, accommodations are reaching capacity. By returning home, people can help host-community ESS create capacity for people who have been evacuated from their homes due to a direct wildfire threat.”
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