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‘It’s an overwhelming job’: Volunteer group helping Westside Road residents recover from wildfire

Click to play video: 'Volunteer group helps Westside Road residents with recovery from wildfire' Volunteer group helps Westside Road residents with recovery from wildfire
Samaritan’s Purse has been helping victims in the Lytton area since early August and have now arrived in the Okanagan to assist people – Sep 17, 2021

Seventy-two-year-old Westside Road resident Kent Macfarlane, who lost his home to the destructive White Rock Lake wildfire, is now trying to put his life back together.

He’s getting help from volunteers with an Albertan non-denominational Christian organization, who managed to find his father’s and grandfather’s war medals in the ashes.

“It means the world to us because we couldn’t have done it without them,” said Macfarlane.

“I can’t go into that area by myself. It’s ash and asphalt and it’s a foot deep. It’s an overwhelming job. These people are a blessing to be here with us.”

Read more: Regional district forecasting large influx of garbage, appliances from White Rock Lake wildfire

Samaritan’s Purse has been helping victims in the Lytton area since early August and have now arrived in the Okanagan to assist people.

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“What we are doing is we are offering two distinct services: one is sifting, where we go into the burnt-out residence with the property owner and help them look through to find anything that may have survived the fire — a lot of times mementos or jewelry,” said Claus Burchert, a Samaritan’s Purse program manager.

“Another thing we do is tree work. Where we cut down dangerous trees, which are going to fall on residents, roadways, or utility lines.”

The organization is mostly made up of volunteers, some of whom have come from across Canada.

“We have people here from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and then the bulk of volunteers are from the Vernon area,” said Burchert.

Read more: Severe drought conditions causing White Rock Lake fire to burn deep underground

One of the out-of-province volunteers is Patti Lemp, who travelled from Calgary.

“This is the second day we’ve worked on this house. We had an opportunity to go in and sift yesterday. We are trying to recover something meaningful for the home owners,” said Lemp.

Lemp said it’s important for her to be here and to try and help others who are struggling. She said it’s rewarding work.

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“Every time we find something and we see how much of a difference it makes for the homeowner (it’s amazing),” said Lemp.

“We see them relax, we see them enjoy things they thought they lost forever.”

The organization says it is looking to help as many people as it can.

It’s asking residents who need help to contact them by phone or through their website.

Samaritan’s Purse can be contacted at 1-866-628-6565.

Click to play video: 'This Is BC: Pilots return home from the frontlines of wildfires' This Is BC: Pilots return home from the frontlines of wildfires
This Is BC: Pilots return home from the frontlines of wildfires – Sep 9, 2021

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