Wildfire evacuees from Logan Lake, B.C. started arriving in Chilliwack Thursday evening as a result of the Tremont Creek fire.
They were directed to head to the emergency operations centre (EOC) in Chilliwack following the evacuation order issued by the District of Logan Lake on Aug. 12.
There is no accommodation available in Merritt or Ashcroft, so evacuees were sent to the EOC at Chilliwack secondary school even though hotels rooms here are in relatively short supply, the order stated.
Chris Wilson, emergency co-ordinator with the City of Chilliwack, confirmed that fact but added no one has been turn away.
“We do have accommodations available. It is limited but everybody that came here last night from Logan Lake and everybody that’s come so far has been placed in Lower Mainland hotels,” he said Friday (Aug. 13).
Clearing up some confusion, he said evacuees are not staying at the EOC, nor have they ever been able to stay there.
Folks on social media and evacuees who came into the EOC were surprised and upset to read a line in evacuation order.
“Please be prepared to lodge with family or friends or in your vehicle as accommodation is limited,” the order stated.
“I was a little bit shocked,” said Logan Lake resident Wendy Schell. “It’s a pretty stressful time and to have to tell people something like that is the last thing you want.”
Wilson said they currently have enough hotel rooms throughout the Lower Mainland to accommodate everyone and that no one should be sleeping in their vehicle in this heat and poor air quality.
“No one that’s come through here has had to sleep in their cars,” Wilson said.
As a result of the evacuation order stating people would potentially have to sleep in their vehicle, people in Chilliwack have been contacting EOC offering up spare rooms in their homes or space for the evacuees to park trailers on their property.
Even though they have not had to take anyone up on those offers, it’s a “great extension of generosity,” Wilson said, adding that they are making a list of those offers to use when the need arises.
“We certainly appreciate people stepping forward.”
About 2,300 people have been evacuated from Logan Lake and about one-third of them are expected to come through the EOC doors in Chilliwack. Evacuees have either been staying with family or friends, staying in their own trailers or RVs, or put up in hotels across Chilliwack and the Lower Mainland thanks to Emergency Social Services (ESS) which operates the EOC.
As of about noon on Friday, about 90 people had come to the Chilliwack EOC.
Wilson recommends all evacuees check in at the centre (46363 Yale Rd.) or online, even if they don’t require ESS service “just to let people know they’re OK,” he said.
Normally ESS provides emergency services for three days, but based on the situation, help can be provided much longer than that. ESS has been supporting Lytton evacuees continuously since June 30.
“Evacuees have been beyond compassionate and amazing to work with and we’re so lucky to have such a diverse group of talented volunteers helping out here,” Wilson said. “It’s made all the difference and it’s a distinct honour to be able to work alongside these people to help out evacuees.”
“The people here have been really, really friendly and very helpful,” Schell said.
Anyone who has a spare room to offer up for evacuees can call Wilson at 604-316-4967 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and their name will be placed on a list.
Donations are not being accepted at the centre.