Locals affected by wildfire activity should be eligible for assistance even though the fire has not directly impacted the Bella Coola Valley.
Many people are now stranded out of town and unable to get home due to fires along Highway 97 and Highway 20. Fires near Williams Lake resulted in a total evacuation of the city yesterday.
Elizabeth Howard is a local resident who has been stranded in the lower mainland due to the fires. She said it has been a challenge to find a route home.
“We initially were placed number 13 on the wait list for the ferry to Bella Bella July 25, but have since been confirmed,” she said. “We still aren’t sure if we qualify for assistance from the Red Cross or the ESS, but we should find out later today.”
BC Ferries is providing free ferry transportation on any BC Ferries’ route for evacuees. Evacuees should call BC Ferries call centre at 1 888 BCFERRY (1 888 223-3779) to secure their travel. For more details, see the news release at: http://www.bcferries.com/about/media_room/newsreleases.html
It’s unknown how many residents are stranded outside of the community due to the fires but the situation is getting attention from local politicians. This is the largest evacuation in B.C. history and provincial and federal assistance is at an all time high.
Jennifer Rice, MLA for North Coast, issued a statement yesterday regarding the situation.
“For residents who are stranded due to wildfires and can’t get home to the Bella Coola Valley, there is financial support through Emergency Social Services (ESS) to assist even though you are technically not from an evacuated community,” she said. “The way to get assistance is from the ESS in the current community you are in. Call 1-800-585-9559 to find your local ESS contact info.”
The Central Coast Regional District is also asking for input from residents on the current situation.
“From your perspective, what are the gaps in the community as far as coordination and communication regarding the wildfires along Highway 20? What are your concerns? What do you personally have to offer in the event of evacuation of Chilcotin residents to the Bella Coola Valley, such as accommodation, room for pets and livestock, food, etc.?,” said Alison Sayers, Area C Director. “We are working in partnership with Nuxalk Nation to identify all these things and address them. Written messages are preferable to phone calls. Private messages can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you.”