Kamloops Steelworkers step in to help feed, house wildfire evacuees

Click to play video: 'Ashcroft WildfiresAshcroft fire flares up, forcing people and animals to flee'
Ashcroft WildfiresAshcroft fire flares up, forcing people and animals to flee
WATCH: Ashcroft fire flares up, forcing people and animals to flee – Jul 7, 2017

A Kamloops-area branch of the United Steelworkers union is spending its weekend feeding, and in some cases, housing wildfire evacuees.

Kyle Wolff, president of United Steelworkers Local 7619 which represents the Teck Highland Valley Copper Mine, spearheaded the effort.

Wolff put out the appeal for help Friday night as the province was declaring a state of emergency to deal with the fires.

“We have friends and family that were calling me as their houses were being evacuated, they had their trucks and trailers on the back that were escaping flames, they have horses, they have dogs, they have cats, they got nowhere to stay, they’re not eating,” Wolff said.

“So I made the call out on Facebook and social media to get people to come out and in within an hour and a half we had over 50 volunteers to come down.”

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The volunteers have set up a mobile kitchen at Kamloops’ McArthur Island evacuation centre, where Wolff says they’re feeding both evacuees and stranded travellers from as far away as Vancouver and Prince George.

He says multiple people have also stepped forward to open their homes to strangers with nowhere to stay.

“As funny as it sounds, I didn’t expect anything different. We’ve always been there for the community and any time we’ve ever reached out for assistance we get more phone calls than I can handle. I had to at one point send people home, because we had too many volunteers, which is not a bad thing,” Wolff said.

The nearby Ashcroft wildfire is currently the largest in the province, burning about 40 square kilometres, and forcing a widespread evacuation within the community and the complete evacuation of nearby Cache Creek. Officials say some homes in the area have been destroyed, but haven’t been able to account for how many due to heavy smoke and fog.

Officials have also not yet been able to offer a clear picture of exactly how many people have been forced to flee their homes because of the fire, but Forests Minister John Rustad says at least 3,000 households have been evacuated.


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