The support for residents evacuated throughout British Columbia is vast and complex. There are currently three Emergency Operations Centres activated in Kamloops. To share information and plan ways to work together, four key organizations met in Kamloops yesterday to discuss joint emergency management and support of the regional fire events.
Representatives from the City of Kamloops, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD), Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (TteS), and Emergency Management BC (EMBC) met on July 7, 2021, at 8:00 am to discuss the Emergency Support Services (ESS) response of each organization. The goals of the session were to share information about each organization's role in emergency response, to provide a situation update on current events, and discuss opportunities for collaboration.
The key themes of the discussion were capacity (both personnel and evacuation centres), communication, evacuation protocol, donations management, comfort of evacuees, safety, and the mental health of all involved. The group spent time reviewing the lessons learned from 2017 and applying those insights to planning for what appears is going to be a difficult summer.
The situation in Kamloops is that there are limited hotel rooms currently available, and limited municipal facilities available for evacuees. The City ESS team, with support from EMBC, are registering evacuees; however, accommodation options are a challenge. The TNRD and the City extend a tremendous thank you to TteS for opening their facilities and lands to host evacuees.
"City ESS personnel have been assisted by other ESS teams in the region and 15 more staff have been requested from the Province. These ESS staff support the registration of evacuees and provide accommodation where possible. Hotel room availability is limited, but we are working closely with all suppliers and partners to increase capacity," said Dan Sutherland, Emergency Program Coordinator with the City of Kamloops. "The Sandman Centre concourse was opened on July 1 during the Kamloops East Fire for temporary shelter and water for residents from Juniper Ridge and Valleyview who needed a place to go."
TteS has been welcoming all fire evacuees to the Kamloops Powwow grounds for several days already.
“The Powwow Arbour is open and Moccasin Square Garden is stocked with supplies for people in need," said Councillor Thomas Blank, who is also the TteS EOC Director. "We opened our Emergency Operations Centre on June 30 and expanded to assist more evacuees on July 3, providing better coordinated supports. We are currently serving hundreds and hundreds of people every day. Approximately 100 breakfasts, 150 lunches, and 200-300 dinners are currently being served to evacuees. Today we are setting up a tent for evacuated children to stay cool and have a place to play."
"We need to continue to have lots of dialogue and to support each other," Councillor Blank continued. "We have some highly sensitive issues in TteS right now and we are raw to say the least, but we are doing our best and focusing our very limited resources in a way that can be most impactful to the most people."
“We raise our hands to every member of this team here today who has opened their community to residents of Lytton to support their evacuation last week," said Kevin Skrepnek, Emergency Program Coordinator with the TNRD. "Our immediate focus is to support the evacuees of Lytton as they begin to process the events in their community and consider the steps to rebuild their future."
A key representative from Emergency Management BC also attended the meeting to offer support to the three EOCs – the City’s, TNRD’s and TteS’s.
"EMBC is committed to supporting any community’s EOC activation through funding and capacity building," said Kayla Pepper, Director, Indigenous Partnership with EMBC “We don’t want communities to be out of pocket to host other communities. You tell us what you need, you tell us who you need, and we’ll help make that connection.”
Donations of gift cards, especially for food and fuel, for evacuees can be dropped off at Moccasin Square Garden on Chief Alex Thomas Way. There is no room for donations of items at this time.