Smith Creek Wildfire: Evacuees share their experiences

Residents in the evacuated area had just minutes to gather their belongings Thursday afternoon.

Lorretta Kampa sat on a chair outside the Emergency Support Services reception centre Friday morning.

Her daughter’s dog, Schubert, sat in her lap, while they waited for her husband to register inside Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary.

Kampa and her husband heard their street, Rhinestone Road, was one of several being evacuated as they drove home from a dentist appointment Thursday afternoon.

She phoned her grandson, he came over to help the couple pack up and they were out of their house, with Schubert and a few belongings, within an hour.

“It’s a very close-knit neighbourhood. Everybody was running next door to see whether everybody had heard the warning,” said Kampa.

Kampa and her husband were on evacuation alert during the 2009 Glenrosa fire, but they never had to leave their home.

She said this experience has been difficult.

“I feel lost,” said Kampa.

Karen McLean seemed less concerned as she sat on the stairs outside the makeshift reception centre in MBSS.

“It was a matter of time. It was just our turn, I guess,” she said.

She and her husband Scott, who is the principal of MBSS, had about 20 minutes to gather important items. They also took a few minutes to snap pictures of things they couldn’t take with them, such as golf clubs and paintings, for insurance purposes.

The pair came to the high school after evacuating to help set up, which McLean said was a good distraction.

“This is not a surprising event. Everybody is hopeful there’s not going to be any properties lost. You never know, but there’s not a lot of fear.

“If it happens, worrying about it isn’t’ going to help.”

As of Friday afternoon, an estimated 1,400 residents had registered with the reception centre.

Some residents said the registration took about an hour to get through Friday morning.

Linda Keil, manager of the reception centre, said the biggest ongoing issue is finding lodging for residents as most hotels have no vacancy.

“It’s a resort area and people come here for holidays. They’ve already booked their hotels,” said Keil.

The Heritage retirement residence (3630 Brown Rd.) helped solve that problem by opening its doors to evacuees Friday.

The new Brown Road retirement residence opened just over a week ago and has a total of 142 unfurnished suites available.

Other local businesses have donated food and items for evacuees at The Heritage. Approximately 100 people have already checked-in.

Charmaine Kramer, general manager of The Heritage, said there are still spots available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

She added the retirement residence could use more bedding, if anyone from the community is able to donate some.

Keil said approximately 50 volunteers are coming and going in shifts to help run the reception centre.

Residents who reside within the evacuation order area and who have not yet registered are asked to visit the Emergency Support Services reception centre at MBSS, 2751 Cameron Rd.

Evacuees will receive food and accommodation vouchers for 72 hours.

If the evacuation order is extended, people will need to return to the reception centre to receive additional vouchers.

Twitter: @PatersonWade



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