Update from the Information Meeting for Evacuees July 9, 2017

Stefanie Poisson

Information Meeting for Evacuees July 9, 2017
A very informative meeting was held by the Thompson Nicola Regional District Emergency Operations Centre last night in the community of Clearwater, this information session was directed at the evacuees in the area. Presentations were provided by key stakeholders involved in the current Wildfire situation.
An Information Meeting for Evacuees was held in Clearwater yesterday at the Clearwater Secondary School. In attendance were MP Cathy McLeod, MLA Peter Milobar, Bill Kershaw, TNRD Director Area 0, Carol Schafer, TNRD Director Area A, Mayor Harwood, Councillors Banford, Blackwell, Heisterman, Kjenstad and Sim as well as about about 50 members of the public. The meeting was chaired by TNRD Chairman, Mayor John Ranta.
Members of BC Wildfire, Interior Health Authority, Ministry of Transportation, Emergency Management BC, Blackpool and Clearwater Volunteer Fire Departments, RCMP, Red Cross, and TNRD Information Officer all provided an overview of their involvement in keeping the public safe and informed about the fire situation in this area. After a short presentation questions from the audience were answered.
Cliff Chapman, Assistant Manager for Kamloops Fire Centre gave an overview on all fires in the province where several towns had to be evacuated. He assured that the Little Fort/ Dunn Lake fires are a priority and an Incident Management team is now in the community to assess, plan and attack the fires. After the initial assessment and set up, local registered qualified contractors will be contacted to join.
Jim Richardson, Incident Management Team leader, BC Wildfire spoke about the team that has been out there since yesterday, learning about the landscape and planning how to tackle the fires. There has been a request sent out for support which will get here over the next couple of days – some area already arriving today. The headquarters for BC Wildlife is at the Clearwater Fire Zone office. Important to note is that the fires did not significantly grow to this point. It is impossible to know how, if and when the fire will move because that depends on conditions such as weather and terrain.
If you would like to see the status of the fires, please go to www.bcwildfire.ca, Current Wildfire, Wildfires of Note, Kamloops Fire Centre and choose the wildfire you would like to learn about. Please avoid spreading rumours or misinformation, only state facts and check in with authorities in case of questions.
Mark Labossiere, Acting Sargeant, RCMP spoke about how evacuation alerts and notices are being issued. The actual alert or note comes from the TNRD Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). Members of the Wells Gray Search and Rescue accompanied by members of the RCMP deliver these notices door to door. An evacuation ALERT means the residents have to get ready for a possible evacuation. Once an evacuation ORDER has been delivered, everyone must leave immediately. He asked the public to stay out of evacuated areas. The TNRD EOC will inform the public where to evacuate to depending on available facilities and road conditions.
Trent Folk, District Manager, Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure spoke about the importance of keeping Highway #5 safe and open. The Transportation Ministry works closely with the RCMP and has sent in support from CVSE. The main task for the CVSE is to make sure commercial vehicles stick to speed limits and operate their vehicles safely. The main goal is to prevent a motor vehicle incident on the highway as this may create a highway closure for hours which will hinder evacuees in safely travel to their designated reception area.
For information on road conditions or closures, please go to www.DriveBC.ca.
Mike Knouff, Emergency Management of BC is here to support local governments in case of an evacuation. Important to know for the public is that everyone is personally responsible for themselves. Follow the instructions, and information on how to prepare for an evacuation and be prepared and ready to leave.
Premiere Clark has announcement of $100m fund to help citizens to recover from the evacuation due to wildfires. The money will be handled through the Canadian Red Cross and the process will be worked out and published soon.
Mike Savage, Deputy Fire Chief, Blackpool Fire Department was the spokesperson for both the Clearwater Fire Department and Blackpool. He talked about the mutual aid agreement between the fire departments. Blackpool and Clearwater fire departments are patrolling Dunn Lake Road and Highway 5 to check for spot fires and to action them if needed. They are in communication with different agencies and are working hard to ensure public safety. The Fire Departments will not communicate with the public directly, information is issued either through the TNRD or District of Clearwater depending on area involved.
Dan Ferguson, Interior Health – Emergency BC, reported that the elderly, pregnant women and those with COPD (asthma, lung disease) patients should have a personal plan in cooperation with their doctor for leaving the area that has smoke from wildfires as these are the most affected groups. The Interior Health website offers help at www.interiorhealth.ca– your environment- forest fires- Q&A. Everyone else please reduce physical activities.
IHA has an evacuation plan in place for all Home Health Services, Mental Health and Addiction patients, renal patients and at risk newborns. These patients will get evacuated when the Evacuation Notice is released from local government(s). IHA provides assistance for those noted during the evacuation as well as help at the new location.
Debbie Sell, Information Manager, TNRD explained, that the EOC (Emergency Operation Centre) is in communication with all the agencies and will issue Evacuation Notices and Alerts when necessary. She asked all evacuees to register with ESS Services at the Reception Centre 257 Glen Road, Clearwater, to receive service for the next 72 hours. If the Evacuation Notice is in place for more than 72 hours, the registration needs to be renewed.
The Red Cross will have a system in place for reunification with family members. Please call the EOC in case you need to leave your pet behind. The phone number for the EOC is 1.866.377.7188 (closed at night).
Follow the TNRD’s website www.tnrd.ca or Facebook for regular updates. Updates are also available through local media / radio stations.
Kayla Pepper, Red Cross ask evacuees to register with the ESS service but also to register with the Red Cross at 1.800.863.6582 or go to www.redcross.ca/gethelp if a referral is not needed (e.g. stay with family members). By doing so you are registered and eligible for other services with the Red Cross.
All in all this meeting was very informative and going forward these agencies will keep the public informed. Feel free to contact any of these agencies for updates and information.

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