Boundary residents pull together to help evacuees

The wildfire west of Rock Creek is still 0 per cent contained and is an estimated 2,500 hectares.

Midway Community Hall serves as the emergency evacuation centre for the Rock Creek Fire.

The wildfire west of Rock Creek is still 0 per cent contained and is an estimated 2,500 hectares. People from the surrounding communities have shown an outpouring of help as they have dominated food, water, toiletries, clothing and even opened their homes to stranded strangers. Highway 3 from Osoyoos to Midway and Highway 33 from Beaverdell to Rock Creek remained closed to traffic in both directions.

More than 270 households and over 400 people have been evacuated from the area.

Alan Stanley, emergency response centre information officer, said it’s been a challenge organizing the evacuation but everyone in the community has been very supportive.

“Yesterday (Thursday) afternoon we became aware of the fire at around 1 p.m. and shortly after opened up the operations centre,” he said. “We spent most of the first part of the evening determining what areas had to be evacuated and issued the evacuation order. And then doing all the work to find safe evacuation routes and setting up reception centres.”

Stanley said it was particularly challenging due to the fact that they were sending people in four different directions due to the highway closures. On Friday, the RDKB emergency crews switched their focus mainly to helping the safety and comfort of evacuees.

“There were a lot of people that evacuated that weren’t very prepared,” said Stanley. “There were a number of reports of campers in Grand Forks with nothing but there bathing suits. They’re all now looked after thanks to the hospital auxiliary.”

Cathy Riddle, emergency social service director for the Midway evacuation centre, said Friday they got the call Thursday around 2 p.m. and have been busy since helping out the evacuees.

“We started the planning as soon as we got the call,” she said. “We knew we were going to have the need to help a lot of people when we found out the campground was on fire.”

Riddle said they had no problem amassing volunteers from the community to help out. She said they also worked with the Red Cross volunteers and firefighters who have been helping out at the evacuation centre.

“The response has been fantastic,” said Riddle. “We’ve been able to put about three quarters of our evacuees into homes or hotel rooms. People have had a nicer place to stay than on the floor of the evacuation centre. It’s been fantastic.”

She said they have been amazed at the outpouring of generosity from the community.

“We are just overwhelmed by the response from everyone,” said Riddle. “We have so much stuff here for people we may not have to use it all. We don’t know how long we’ll be open for so we’re going through a lot of stuff. We really appreciate it.”

There are an estimated 500 evacuees in the Midway evacuation centre as of Friday and 116 in Kelowna.

Displaced Rock Creek resident and business owner Erika Maarhuis was at the evacuation centre picking up diapers for her infant son Casey. Maarhuis and her family did have time to get in their truck and have been staying with friends in the area. Her husband Chad is fighting the fire with the Midway Fire Department.

“(Thursday) I was at work when I found out about the fire,” she said. “I went home and grabbed a few things and by the time I left it was pretty big. I just left the gate open and let the horses and the llama go. Hopefully they will come back.”

She told the Gazette she had heard that her house was still in tact as of 6:30 a.m. Friday although her friend’s house in Westbridge was lost.

“We’re just waiting and seeing,” said Maarhuis. “There’s not much we can do. I was doing really well until I came here (to the Midway evacuation centre) and saw everyone.”

Although worried losing her home and business potentially,

Maarhuis was glad to see the community come together.

“This is great,” she said. “The community has been great. It’s been amazing. Small communities come together.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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