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Communities rally in support of Keremeos Creek wildfire evacuees

Evacuation orders have been issued for more than 500 properties
Smoke-filled skies as seen from Olalla, due to the nearby Keremeos Creek Wildfire. (BC Wildfire Service)

With evacuees having to leave their homes due to the threat of the Keremeos Creek wildfire, the communities of the South Okanagan and Similkameen have rallied to provide support.

In addition to the City of Penticton’s reception centre, which has supported more than 200 evacuees so far, others from around area communities are also stepping up.

Residents from Cawston and Keremeos opened their yards to those with trailers or campers to set up.

The Keremeos Grist Mill and Gardens, though under alert, also welcomed people to use the open spots at its campgrounds.

During an Aug. 5 update, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen noted that while there was great interest in people providing physical donations, such as teddy bears or blankets, there is no system in place yet for such items.

Instead, the RDOS asks to donate gift cards for families impacted by the fire or donate to local organizations such as the Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team, who are called on during emergencies to offer support for evacuated residents.

The RDOS also reported a number of small but impactful stories of support from local businesses and volunteers.

A hotel manager stayed until midnight to try to find, clean and move any additional rooms at the hotel for evacuees.

A business owner returned after closing time to support evacuees while a member of the ESS team worked closely with the health authority to help an evacuee receive urgent health care services.

ALERT volunteers stayed open until 11 p.m. to support Olalla evacuees on Aug. 4, as school district staff opened and closed schools at all hours to keep the reception centre operational.

A cafe donated coffee for all the ESS volunteers.

ESS team members also returned for a second shift during the day when Olalla was evacuated.

Working alongside the BC Wildfire Service and fire departments, other members of the community stayed behind in places such as Cedar Creek to help fight the blaze as it came close to properties.

READ MORE: ‘Help is available’: Emergency assistance for pets amid Keremeos Creek Wildfire

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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