Kamloops wildfire volunteers remembered one year later

By Jill Sperling
July 12, 2018 - 5:53pm

KAMLOOPS — The Sandman Centre is quiet now, but it was around this time last year that thousands of evacuees moved in. 

2017 was the worst wildfire season on record in B.C., but in the midst of a terrible situation, thousands of Kamloops residents stepped up to so some good. 

"The volunteerism spirit was phenomenal," said Debbie Sell, who served as an information officer with the TNRD during the fires. 

"It was actually overwhelming at times, where we had people step forward and want to help." 

Sell says volunteers in the region logged more than 150,000 hours in an attempt to make wildfire evacuees comfortable. 

"When we start to try to see if we can count the number of volunteers that may have stepped forward, it's estimated at being well over 4,000 people that stepped forward to volunteer," she said. 

Four Paws Food Bank was one of numerous organizations that saw a need, and the community stepped up in a big way to help them walk and care for pets. 

"We sent a couple of volunteers down to McArthur Island," said Four Paws founder Bonnie McBride. "ESS said 'here's a couple of vests and a table, we'd love it if you went outside.' It went from there to 800 volunteers, and over $250,000 worth of donations by the time we were done at the end of the summer."

Some of the most devoted volunteers were wildfire evacuees themselves. 

The Kamloops Food Bank's volunteer base also grew during the state of emergency. Executive Director Bernadette Siracky says 1,200 evacuees were served on site. 

"We just came up with a list of what needed to be done, and it was all done," Siracky said. "It really almost was miraculous. The help showed up as we needed it. People felt like they were doing something really meaningful, and you know what? They were." 

UPDATE: Evacuations due to grass fire rescinded; Shuswap Road reopened