Review of McDougall Creek wildfire emergency support services planned

Three months after the McDougall Creek wildfire ripped through the Central Okanagan, destroying hundreds of homes, area officials are still focussed on getting a grasp regarding what went wrong with the emergency services response.

In the weeks after the blaze ripped through hundreds of homes, concerns were raised about the pace that emergency services were handed out to those most in need.

Reports of some people living in cars, and others simply not being able to access resources were plentiful.

More recently, West Kelowna council wrote a letter to the Central Okanagan regional district asking that the matter be looked into and they received word this week they’d been heard.

“We have been made aware that the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Resiliency, has an ESS sub-committee, who are tasked to find ways to address the need for more accessible support for evacuees, with specific attention to timely access to short-term financial supports and accommodation,” regional district chair Loyal Wooldridge said in a letter to West Kelowna council.

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Click to play video: 'Victim of McDougall Creek fire finds a way to give back'

Victim of McDougall Creek fire finds a way to give back

“The ESS Team is hosting a series of engagements to gather information in support of the Premier’s Task Force on Emergencies.”

Wooldridge said regional chief administrative Officer’s, EOC Representatives and fire chiefs met with the ministry ESS Team to share their concerns with the program.

“The RDCO has made a formal request to EMCR to identify an email or online platform for our communities to share their lived ESS experiences directly with the province,” Wooldridge said. “We are currently awaiting a response.”

The Emergency Operation Centre is also conducting an after-action review which is a standard debrief process following an EOC activation.

For the Grouse Complex Wildfire, the lesser used name for the three wildfires that stemmed from McDougall Creek, a third-party independent facilitator will be engaged to conduct the review, with a commitment to specifically address the unprecedented volume of evacuations.

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Click to play video: 'Campers get a first look at the destruction at Camp OAC following the McDougall Creek wildfire'

Campers get a first look at the destruction at Camp OAC following the McDougall Creek wildfire

When complete, the key findings and recommendations will be made available to regional partners and the public.

Meanwhile, the McDougall Creek Wildfire Resiliency Centre wrapped up operations Friday, months after its Aug. 31 opening.

It opened two weeks after fire ravaged the region, and provided residents a single point of contact to help navigate the wildfire recovery process.

“Since opening its doors, the resiliency centre has served over 400 individuals and their families, completed 84 unmet needs assessments and conducted more than 700 referrals for immediate supports,” said Travis Kendel, Acting Director of RDCO Engineering Services.

“The collaborative efforts of government staff, volunteers, social support organizations, and the unmet needs committee have been instrumental in rebuilding lives and facilitating a smoother recovery process.”

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At the peak of operations, there were 12 agencies involved. They were the Salvation Army, Samaritans Purse, WorkBC, Gore Mutual, Intact Insurance, Personal Insurance, St John’s Ambulance, First Nations Emergency Services Society, Disaster Psychosocial Support, Canadian Red Cross, Services Canada and Service BC.

The recovery process is far from over, despite the centre closing. To that end, online resources will remain available for those who need them.

“Demolition and development permit process information for RDCO residents and a reference list of services through local partners and non-profits are accessible,” the regional district said.

Further, the concerns of those who said that Emergency Services fell short of meeting needs will also have their needs met.


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