Sandman Evacuation Centre to remain open into September

By Vanessa Ybarra
August 17, 2017 - 5:31pm Updated: August 19, 2017 - 8:25am

KAMLOOPS — For just over a month, the Sandman Centre has been providing food and lodging for wildfiree evacuees.

At it's height the centre was housing hundreds of evacuees.

However with numerous evacuation orders lifted throughout the Southern Interior over the past few weeks, that number has significantly dropped.

Outside the Sandman Centre, all is quiet.

Empty chairs and a table full of untouched donuts shows signs evacuation activity has significantly died down throughout the Interior and Cariboo region.  "Wednesday night we had 25 evacuees staying in group loding at the Sandman Centre" said Megan Gregory, Information Officer with the Thompson Nicola Regional District. 

According to the TNRD, more than 10-thousand people were registered at the Sandman's Emergency Operation Centre during the height of the evacuations in mid July, with all 504 emergency cots inside the centre being used. 

Officials say activity has dropped significantly in the last weeks.

"We have 1,007 active files for evacuees," said Gregory. "The evacuees who are here are residents on evaluation alert for the Loon Lake area, HiHium Lake, the Deadman Valley area and others regions."

Gregory says a good portion of evacuees are staying with family or friends in Kamloops or have taken advantage of the cities billet program.

While the TNRD says it plans to continue emergency operations at the Sandman Centre for at least the next few weeks, plans after that are uncertain.
"The City of Kamloops has graciously provided us this facility until September 6th," added Gregory. "We're planning for beyond that date and of course we hope everyone's able to go home."

While activity may have died down at the Sandman Centre, officials say the force and unpredictability of the Elephant Hill wildfire burning near Clinton could change capacity in a second.

"The fire is over 168-thousand hectares in size so it's a very large fire," said Max Birkner, Fire Information Officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre. "One of the challenges is the vast amount of communities that have been impacted. There are some lakeside communities that are in the area north east of the fire which is currently the area the fire has been most active."

According to Birkner, fire crews managed to  gain some control over the Elephant Hill fire in the last few days but it remains at zero percent contained.

What effect those conditions will have on the Sandman grounds is anyone's guess.

TNRD officials and volunteers say all they can do is focus on providing quality care to those who remain out of their home.

"We review the Elephenat Hill fire daily, so it is really a day-by-day situation," said Gregory. "We're so appreciative of how the community has come together and of course we're always looking for more help."

Patient care tower, pipeline top priorities for mayoral candidate Ken Christian