Smithers Opening Wildfire Evacuee Centre
Smithers, B.C. – It’s a fair distance from the raging wildfires in the Cariboo, but a wildfire evacuee reception centre will open in Smithers today.
It will be located at Ranger Park and offer services from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday and be staffed by Bulkley Emergency Social Services volunteers.
Volunteers will be assisting evacuees renew or extend referrals for lodging or groceries.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen says there are approximately 100 evacuees in Smithers right now.
“I was just in Fort St. James and what seems to have happened is a lot of people were out already, touring, visiting family and now they can’t go home,” he said during a visit to Prince George Wednesday.
“And that’s turned into weeks now. So, when we’ve asked around we find out that in places like Smithers, Kitimat and Fort St. James, there are folks from Williams Lake and other places that just can’t go home. So, we’re now going to receive them and make a home for them until they can go home.”
Is he satisfied with the federal response – military aid along with $600 per household evacuated due to wildfire and $300 once they return – to the crisis so far?
“Well, the response that’s been most impressive is at the local level. Watching all these communities help each other out. People from Alberta too,” says Cullen.
“That generosity and that love, that’s what’s been amazing. And the firefighters on the front line. The federal government sort of plays a back-up role. The military and money.”
He acknowledges however the amount of money needed to help assist and help rebuild communities will likely increase.
“You can only really get the assessments once you’re actually on the ground and I’m thinking back to Fort Mac – which blew right through town. It’s not going to be cheap,” says Cullen.
“The commitments I’ve seen from both Premier Horgan and Trudeau have been positive – a ‘whatever it takes to rebuild’ statement. And we’ll hold them to that promise.”