Firefighter training, fire department equipment and VHF radio repeaters will be seeing an influx of cash soon.
More than $64,000 has been donated to Rotary clubs throughout the Cariboo for wildfire recovery and prevention efforts.
Rotary District 5040 governor Don Evans was in the Cariboo to give out the money – $16,000 to each of the four clubs spread from 100 Mile House to Quesnel.
“It started when the fires were burning,” says Evans.
He touched base with his partner governor in Alberta to see what was done by Rotary following the Fort McMurray fires.
The answer was a wildfire fund.
The district, which stretches from Tsawwassen to Prince Rupert, set up an account and started accepting donations.
One of the first cheques written came from the club in Fort McMurray.
Donations came from as far away as Ontario, says Evans, and individuals also donated to the fund.
“It’s just built over time. This month, what we are doing is dispersing all of the funds.”
The Rotary district asked each club to come up with a project for the donations, that would go to either wildfire prevention or long-term sustainable recovery.
“What the clubs have put forward are mostly around future prevention, which is exciting. The creative things each of the clubs have put forward, from just training the volunteer firefighters so they don’t have to stand and watch, so they are certified to take action. These are important steps that can make a difference should a similar thing start in the future,” says Evans.
In Quesnel, $2,500 raised at the 2017 Rotary Fall Fashion Show was added to the total.
The Rotary Club of Quesnel identified the Quesnel Amateur Radio Society’s VHF radio repeater network as one project worthy of funding, presenting the group with $8,600 from the total donation.
Radio Society vice president Bob Holowenko and secretary treasurer Robert Leclerc hope to have the station operational ahead of this year’s dry season.
“The project goes towards communications that will help us in the event of the wildfires happening again,” says Rotary Club of Quesnel president Sandra Lewis.
“If telecommunication lines go down – cell lines, landlines – one thing that we’ll always have is the ham radio.”
The Quesnel Rotary club is also looking to support other local wildfire recovery projects with the remainder of the donations, and funding allocations will be announced as the projects are developed.
Rotary District 5040 will also be working with both the Quesnel and Williams Lake Rotary clubs to help them procure equipment for local fire departments in those areas, as well with their own donations.
Evans and his wife Deb are on their third trip to the area since Evans became governor. The first took place in July, and the second took place shortly after the fires. They also visited Prince George when much of the Cariboo was evacuated.
“We know that the long-term effects of the fires are still being felt, with people that didn’t return and businesses that didn’t make it through,” says Evans.
“But we see optimism and we see the communities getting going again, so that is encouraging.”