‘We just step in’: Volunteer effort gears up as B.C. wildfire situation escalates
With the wildfire situation escalating rapidly across British Columbia, volunteers are mobilizing to collect and distribute donations to evacuees.
As of Sunday, there were more than 600 wildfires burning across the province.
About 900 properties have been evacuated in the Cariboo Regional District, and there are smaller evacuation orders in effect in virtually every corner of the province, including the southeast, northwest and Prince George areas.
Hundreds more are on evacuation alert, ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
That’s where the volunteers come in.
Bea Peter is the B.C. director of a volunteer group called The Postmen that collects items in need from around the province and delivers them to evacuation centres.
“It’s traumatic. These people are extremely scared, they’re in shock. The children have no idea what’s going on; it’s really traumatic for them,” Peter said.
The group was initially formed in Alberta in response to the Fort McMurray wildfires but spread to B.C. during the province`s record wildfire season in 2017.
The Postmen has volunteers collecting donations all around the province, from the Kootenays to Vancouver Island, Kamloops and up Highway 97.
Peter said the group began to gear up in earnest last week when the number and severity of wildfires exploded.
WATCH: Wildfire concerns in northwest B.C.
They’ve made deliveries to the Telegraph Creek evacuees in Terrace and are now concentrating efforts on deliveries to Prince George and Quesnel.
Peter runs a small business, but said in times of crisis she and her fellow postmen are willing to put work on hold to help their neighbours.
“These people, a lot of them feel really helpless, especially a lot of really elderly people or people with disabilities. They don’t know what direction to turn, and we just step in. That’s what drives us. We make the time; that’s what we do,” said Peter.
Peter said the group has been staging donation drop-offs at community locations and that the response has been strong so far. She said one car dealership has even given them use of a minivan to make the deliveries.
Peter said that right now volunteers aren’t looking for clothing, but there are a number of key items they’re trying to collect.
“Mainly, we need non-perishable foods and hygiene products,” she said. The group also takes animal items through a separate branch called the Pet Postmen.
They do not accept cash but are more than happy to take gas or gift cards.
You can find a more detailed list of items in need along with information about drop-off locations on the group’s Facebook page.
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