A Penticton man’s grassroots efforts to provide aid for those displaced by the seemingly endless list of wildfires ravaging the province is gaining momentum, with a truckload of supplies already sent out.
The “Cache Creek / Ashcroft to 100 Mile Evac & Support Group” on Facebook was set up by Allan Love in Penticton, but it’s quickly-growing member base is spread across B.C., all looking to provide some help to the thousands displaced by the more than 220 wildfires in the province.
Quickly reaching 100 members just hours after the group’s formation on Saturday, there are now 550 members offering a hand in various ways.
“I’m an old forestry firefighter, myself, so I know the hardships that the people will be going through, as I’ve been on the fighting end of it,” Love said. “I know how much it could actually suck. I just want to give anyone who needs help as much help as I can possibly give them whether it’s through myself or through proxy.”
If Love isn’t able to provide the help that an evacuee is needing, he said hopefully one of the 550 — and growing — members of his group will be able to.
Love said clothing, food and shelter make up the bulk of what the group is offering, with numerous members offering to make room in their homes for the evacuees.
“I, myself, am even willing to put up a couple of people inside my house, I can put up a couple more people inside my camper, and I‘ve got lots of room for RVs or tents for camping,” Love said. “I can help out even some of them, myself, with food and whatnot, too.”
Love has set his garage up at 101 Nelson Street as an ad hoc donation centre, clearing space to hold items earmarked for evacuees, with the closest donation centres set up in the Lower Mainland and in Kamloops.
“I’ve even got three truckloads coming down later just from Kelowna area,” Love said, adding that he’s been in touch with groups like the Salvation Army.
“I’m working with different organizations to get transport from my place up to the Kamloops centres, to the (Emergency Social Services) there, and then it’ll get distributed from there to Prince George, or wherever else is requiring whatever.”
About a pickup load has already been sent out from Love’s place in Penticton up to Kamloops, which he said is a good start so far.
“Considering I’ve only actually opened up my garage since (Monday),” he said.
“Basic things that we’re asking for is personal hygiene products right now, a lot of that stuff is always the most overlooked. Of course, water’s always great to have, too, but other groups that are from Alberta, they’re sending mass amounts of fluids.”
Love said he’s also seeing requests for clothing, with many evacuated in early days having cycled through all of their clean clothes. Members in the group span across the province, with Facebook profiles showing up from the coast, up to Lillooet and as far out as Calgary.
That, Love said, will help to spread group’s ability to provide help wherever it’s needed, especially with most of the fires in the Cariboo region — far away from Love’s home in Penticton. The group has also managed to help house several people, pointing to a woman named Mia, who came to the area with her boyfriend and their baby.
“They’re set up completely with everything that they need in Kamloops, so I’m quite thrilled with that,” he said, adding that people have found housing through the group up and down the Okanagan Valley.
But the giving spirit hasn’t ended with those with space to spare — Love pointed to one man who offered to help out however he can, despite himself being an evacuee.
Love said he’s offered a helping hand to others in need before, but never anything on this scale.
“I’m winging it, doing what I can,” he said. “It sucks to be down, so I may as well do what I can to make their life better and easier.”