The Cariboo Regional District is urging residents to sign up for its Cariboo Chilcotin Emergency Notification System as the “fastest way” to get news about wildfire threats in their area.
Chris Keam, CRD’s manager of communications, said the notification system will provide residents with an evacuation “alert” or “order” as soon as it is issued. An alert is aimed at giving residents notice to prepare for potential evacuation while an order requires people to leave an area immediately because of life safety issues.
The notification system, accessible at cariboord.ca/CRDEmergsignup.emergency, “literally could be a lifesaver,” Keam said.
The CRD has issued two evacuation orders and three alerts in the regional district since the wildfires began on Wednesday, June 30. As of Friday, firefighters are battling 47 fires across the Cariboo-Chilcotin, with 36 in the South Cariboo. The two “orders” are for more than 700 people in Deka Lake, forced to leave due to a 200-hectare “fire of note,” and 14 properties on Judson Road.
In the case of Deka Lake, police enacted a “tactical evacuation,” meaning that they were telling residents to leave before the official order had been issued because the situation was deemed urgent.
“If they determine something has changed they have the authority to do it,” said Stephanie Masun, CRD’s manager of emergency programs and disaster resilience.
Evacuees from both orders are being directed to an Emergency Support Services reception centre at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School, where they can get 72-hour support, or more if they need it. They had previously been directed to the South Cariboo Rec Centre. An additional ESS centre is at the Fire Hall in Williams Lake.
Residents in the three communities on evacuation “alert” – the Canim Lake area, including the Canim Lake Band, Sulphurous Lake and the Big Stick area, about 270 kilometres west of Williams Lake – are encouraged to pre-register with the provincial emergency support services at: ess.gov.bc.ca.
The alerts are aimed at giving people time to get prepared to leave – and gather important paperwork, necessities and medications – before an actual order is issued.
100 Mile RCMP and Search and Rescue members had gone door-to-door to many residents in the region, including Lone Butte and Canim Lake, to issue “alerts” and encourage them to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Masun noted in some cases the situation was changing so fast – and there are many rural areas without cell service – that they wanted to get the message out as fast as they can.
“They are working hard to keep people safe,” Masun said.
However, she noted some people on alert may have misunderstood the alert notification as being an order and immediately packed up and left, not realizing they won’t be eligible for support because they are not on evacuation “order.”
“Those on evacuation alert some could choose to leave their area but there is no safety net,” she said.
She and Keam noted that seasonal residents and tourists who may be staying in the area – even if they are under evacuation order – should be aware that they aren’t eligible for ESS services.
“They are expected to go home to their primary residence and not seek refuge here,” Keam said.
At the same time, those who refuse to leave during an evacuation order will not be supported with food or water or other supports.
Official alerts and orders and maps of impacted areas can be found at: cariboord.ca/EOCorderalerts.