Does wildfire volunteer effort need a second wind?

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
August 8, 2017 - 4:26am

KAMLOOPS — You could call it volunteer fatigue, or maybe volunteer dropout. After a few weeks of high-energy response to the wildfire evacuations, the ranks of volunteers seem to be thinning out.

When an emergency hits, we’re all anxious to do something to help. We go looking for phone numbers, Facebook pages, or news stories that will tell us where to take our humanitarian instincts. The very best in us comes to the fore.

Sometimes it’s not easy being a volunteer because groups are springing up everywhere and there’s no central place to go. But, volunteer we do, fitting in wherever and whenever we can. A couple of hours here, a couple of days there.

If we can’t give of our time, we give stuff, or money, even offer our homes or our back yards. We’re told there’s not enough of this, or too much of that. Go on line, grab an app, pledge support.

And we do. And then, having done something, we have to go back to our own lives. We have to look after ourselves and our families, get up and go to work, feed our own kids and pets, keep house and home together.

And the volunteer pool runs its course. Media coverage begins to move on to other things. Whereas at the beginning there were too many to handle, over time there’s not enough. Groups that were turning away volunteers at the beginning find themselves reaching out by phone, text, email and Facebook with pleas to come tomorrow or even right now because things need to be done.

It’s a natural evolution, and an expected one. So now, it’s time for those folks who were there at the start but have taken a break, or who weren’t available at the beginning but now are, to return to the fold, to find another few hours or another day or two. To make the effort to find who needs help now. A sort of volunteerism second wind.

The wildfires aren’t done with us yet. It’s almost certain there will be more evacuations, though perhaps not numbering in the thousands as has been the case to now, but in the dozens or hundreds. People and animals will be in need.

The rest of us need to be there for them. And a shout-out to those who have been toiling so hard day after day since this thing started. You deserve a medal.