Hundreds of people fled an aggressive fire in British Columbia’s southern interior. Since the fire was reported last Thursday, August 13, The Salvation Army has provided relief assistance to first responders and evacuees. The evacuees say the flames were unlike anything they’d ever seen.
"Literally the tree tops were bursting like bombs and falling down on the top of our house," says Rob, who took refuge at The Salvation Army’s evacuation/reception centre in Kelowna.
Within hours of the blaze starting, the centre, run by Kelowna Emergency Support Services, was set up at The Salvation Army’s community church in Kelowna. In addition, Salvation Army mobile canteens were deployed to hard hit areas serving two meals a day. Food services are on hold at the moment as communities now have access to grocery stores and power is restored.
“I keep going online to trace the path of the fire and our units will provide support as needed,” says John McEwan, The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services Director for British Columbia. “We have served who just made it out of their homes with what was on their backs.”
When requested, The Salvation Army provides emotional and spiritual care. On Monday, Captain Miriam Leslie accompanied residents of Westbridge who were bussed in to their small community to view the destruction.
“People’s homes were flattened. They’d lost everything,” says Captain Leslie. “It was very emotional. One house used to be three stories high. One elderly lady shared with me that this was her fourth time starting over. Although it’s heart-wrenching, people are anxious to share their experience. It helps bring closure to and acceptance of what happened.“