Provincial state of emergency extended
The provincial state of emergency that was announced on July 7 has been extended through the end of day on August 4, Premier John Horgan announced on July 19.
The state of emergency will continue to apply for the whole province so that federal, provincial, and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated response to the wildfire situation and continue to ensure public safety. The provincial government has also committed to provide ongoing direct financial support to evacuees.
Red Cross assistance in Cache Creek
The Canadian Red Cross is in Cache Creek, helping residents who have recently returned to the village and the surrounding areas.
The Red Cross is operating a centre in the basement of the Cache Creek Community Hall every day from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.
“We will be here until we have seen all individuals in need of support as they re-enter,” says site manager Dave Schiller. The last interview of the day starts at 6:30 p.m.
Even if evacuated residents have already registered with the Red Cross for the $600 in immediate funding for evacuees, they should register at the Community Hall, where they will be eligible for a $300 re-entry payment. Cleaning kits are also being handed out at the centre.
“We’re happy to be here to support people,” says Schiller. “And people are happy to be back.”
Loon Lake restoration
Close to 50 buildings—including the fire hall—have been destroyed in the community of Loon Lake, where residents were (as of July 25) still on evacuation order.
Members of the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Department worked to try to save as much as they could, but were forced to leave when conditions became too hazardous. They returned when they were able, to put out hot spots and remove hazards.
A gofundme page to raise funds for the community—specifically to help rebuild the fire hall, which was destroyed—has been launched. To donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/loon-lake-restoration.
Disposal of spoiled food, fridges, and freezers
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) has issued a notice for evacuees who returned, or will return, home to find spoiled food in their fridges and freezers, and/or fridges and freezers that may be contaminated and cannot be cleaned safely.
If it is safe to open your fridge or freezer, double-bag spoiled food and dispose of it as regular garbage. Disposal fees for spoiled food will be waived at TNRD transfer stations for a limited time.
If you deem that it is unsafe to open your fridge or freezer, seal the doors shut with duct tape; label the appliance “contaminated” in large letters; and move the appliance to the curb- or roadside for pick-up. The TNRD is arranging to pick up contaminated appliamnces free of charge for a limited time from areas that were evacuated. Fridges and freezers at the curb- and roadside will be picked up from homes in Cache Creek starting on Monday, July 24.
Call your insurer before disposing of your fridge or freezer, to notify them and check your coverage. The refrigerator, freezer, and their contents may be covered under your policy for damage related to food spoilage caused by an accidental power interruption.
Take pictures to document the damage before disposing of food and/or appliances.
Contaminated fridges and freezers can also be dropped off at TNRD waste transfer stations free of charge for a limited time. If you live outside Cache Creek and need to dispose of a contaminated appliance, please contact the TNRD Emergency Operations Centre at (250) 377-7188.
Hotline for impacted businesses
The BC Economic Development Association (BCEDA) has launched a hotline to help businesses get back on their feet following the wildfires impacting Central B.C. The hotline has been established in collaboration with FortisBC.
The “Business Recovery Hotline” (1-877-422-3377) began operation on July 24, and will continue from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, until at least August 4 (the hotline may be extended if the need is there). Business owners will be asked questions over the hotline that will help distinguish the business’s—and the community’s—short- and long-term needs.
The information will then be shared with the communities, the Canadian Red Cross, Community Futures British Columbia, the Province of B.C., and others to help them plan as the community moves forward.
Business owners will also be able to receive information about programs that are, or will be, available to businesses and home owners who have experienced significant disruptions as a result of the fires.
BC Hydro at work
BC Hydro crews have been busy in the area since the Elephant Hill fire started on July 6 and spread rapidly. They spent four days working to rebuild 35 transmission structures between Ashcroft and Spences Bridge that were damaged by the fire, with the towers helicoptered into the area; crews on the ground then worked to guide them into place.
In the Cache Creek area, Hydro crews have been working to rebuild 11 transmission structures that were damaged by the fire.
Due to the challenging terrain and limited access to the area, specialized cranes and track equipment were used. The repairs will strengthen the transmission system.
The latest assessment shows that wildfires have caused damage to 248 distribution power poles, 114 cross arms, 231 spans of wires, and 35 transformers throughout the province.
BC SPCA working to help animals affected by wildfires
The BC SPCA has been working hard to rescue and assist animals impacted by B.C.’s wildfires. Some 130 homeless animals in the SPCA’s care have been transferred from SPCA shelters in the Cariboo region to their facilities in the Interior, the Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island.
The SPCA has also contacted large pet supply companies about shipping urgently-needed pet food and supplies to evacuation centres.
The BC SPCA has also set up a special online emergency donation site (spca.bc.ca/emergency alert) to help animals affected by the wildfires.
Shady contractors may be out there
With many people around the province finding their properties damaged or destroyed in the wake of recent wildfires, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning those affected not to fall victim to shady contractors. According to the BBB’s Risk Report, home improvement scams are the number one riskiest ones out there, meaning they are the ones people are most likely to be exposed to and fall for.
The scams work in two ways. In one scenario, a contractor shows up, often unsolicited, and convinces the homeowner to accept a low price for the necessary work and give a substantial deposit in cash. The contractor then leaves with the cash and is never heard from again.
In the other scenario, the contractor might over-bill for the job on the assumption that insurance will be covering the cost. The job may be sub-par and not meet building codes, and the material used might be damaged, used, or stolen from another job site.
The BBB has some tips for those looking for a restoration specialist. Use well-known, local contractors; ask around and find out who friends have used in the past.
If the contractor does not regularly work in your area, consider using one who does.
Get at least three estimates on any big restoration job, and obtain references from the contractor. If they refuse to, or cannot, provide you with references, consider using someone else. Ask for proof of licensing for the province, as well as proof that they are bonded and insured.
Get everything in writing, ask for a copy of the contract, and review it carefully. Make sure the contract is on company letterhead and includes all charges, timelines, and materials used. Make sure you know how much your home insurance will cover, and have your claims adjuster review any contracts. Also find out exactly which damages are covered and which are not.
Avoid cash jobs. A contractor might offer an unbelievable deal if you pay in cash, but you lack any recourse such as a credit card chargeback should something go wrong.