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More than 800 Central Okanagan wildfire evacuees in Vernon

Residents displaced by blazes welcomed and supported in last 4 days

Vernon’s population has swollen with hundreds of wildfire evacuees.

The Emergency Social Services (ESS) reception centre, at Kal Tire Place, has been accepting residents displaced by the Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country wildfires since Thursday, Aug. 17.

Approximately 840 evacuees, mostly from the above Central Okanagan, but some from the Shuswap fires, have registered as of Sunday, Aug. 20 at 8 p.m.

And so far, everyone has found a place to stay.

“For the last couple days, we have been able to find accommodations for everyone who has come into the Vernon Reception Centre and needed a place to stay. If necessary, Vernon also has an ability to open group lodging,” said Christy Poirier, ESS information officer.

Some rooms came available with tourists and visitors planning to leave the Okanagan on their own. The Premier’s announcement about no non-essential travel to the Okanagan also helped increase room capacity for the ESS program.

Not all evacuees require assistance with accommodations. Some just need referrals for food or toiletries and clothing.

One couple, forced from their home in Fintry Friday, said while they had to sleep in their car one night, the care has been excellent. They are now staying at a local hotel and have received help from the Okanagan Humane Society for placement of their dog.

Groups, businesses and individuals are coming together to assist anyone who needs it.

“We have had a number of community members reach out and ask how they can volunteer with ESS and be part of this current response. At this time, we are not calling for new volunteers,” said Christy Poirier, ESS information officer. “We have a strong pool of trained ESS volunteers who have been ready and willing to assist as we’ve needed over the last several days. They’ve done an outstanding job.”

Those who are still interested, can visit the City of Vernon website’s ESS program information.

In order to work in the reception centre, they will need to fill out a volunteer application. Those applications would then need to be processed and then applicants would need to receive some training and going through an onboarding process.

“As we are still processing a high volume of evacuees right now, we are unable to process new applications right now, but this is on our team’s radar and we are having discussions about if or when we may need to onboard new applicants.”

Those who have applied to volunteer and haven’t heard back from the city yet, are asked to have patience and understanding.

READ MORE: Nearly 60 structures confirmed lost or damaged in Central Okanagan wildfires

READ MORE: United Way launches B.C. recovery fund for wildfire evacuees


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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

20-year-Morning Star veteran
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