On Friday afternoon, the Keremeos Creek wildfire located 20 km outside of Penticton forced more than 1,600 properties to issue an evacuation alert or order.
The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District has set up an Emergency Support Service drop-in center at Princess Margaret High School in Penticton, where over 300 registrations have been received and are in need of support.
“This can range from accommodation, to food support, to mental health and family reunification assistance, as well as just providing information as we learn of the fire and the incident and the also transmit to the evacuees”, explains Adam Goodwin, ESS coordinator.
Goodwin added that the community of Penticton and surrounding areas has gone above and beyond for those displaced from their homes.
“Members of the public have donated a variety of gift cards that we can distribute to evacuees as well as local business partners of emergency assistance services, so restaurants, hotels and things like have done everything possible to add capacity,” said Goodwin.
Keremeos Creek fire: 1,600 properties under evacuation alerts, orders
A woman and her 11-year-old son are experiencing their very first summer in the Okanagan after leaving Saskatchewan last year. The two left their home at Apex Mountain Resort after the fire continued to close in on the village, and the whole ordeal left the two understandably shaken.
“We love this mountain, so we know it will never be the same driving there, hiking along the trails or driving down a verdant mountain road,” described Sarah Patten.
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“It will never be like before and it’s heartbreaking.”
Patten says she’s just grateful to have a roof over their heads during all the uncertainty.
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“It’s amazing to be in a community small enough to care about its neighbors,” Patten explained.
“This is my home and I’m so proud to call it that – we’re so lucky to be safe.”
Another evacuee from the center on Friday said her main priority when she started packing her house was her animals, all of which are safe in shelters or with her friends. She says the uncertainty of not knowing what she will see when she is allowed to return to her property is devastating.
“They did the back burn on our mountain, which was intense. it was right behind our house, and you could see the tree mirage, you could hear it,” Lois Wager said.
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“That’s when I really understood that maybe I don’t have a home. Yeah, I’m grateful to have my family, I have my daughter, I have everyone which is important to me, but it’s still a house that you built, and you want to be able to go back there, really.”
The Penticton Reception Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the ESS anticipates it will be open for at least a few hours on Saturday to assist anyone who may still be evacuated.
If you are on evacuation alert, we encourage you to register online at ess.gov.bc.ca, and for those on evacuation order, you can register for assistance at the center Penticton Hospitality located at 120 Green Avenue West.
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