Floods, landslides, and now wildfires are taking their toll in the Cariboo Regional District.
The CRD’s Emergency Operations Centre has been open for the past 15 months dealing with these issues, which have put the population “under a tremendous amount of stress,” said Stephanie Masun, CRD’s manager of emergency programs and disaster resilience.
“Our population is experiencing these impacts year to year and they’re significant, as well as the heat wave and the pandemic we’ve gone through,” she told the CRD board Friday, Aug. 20.
The situation has prompted the regional district to offer resiliency support services in 100 Mile House, where a majority of the fires are burning. There are nine active wildfires in the 100 Mile zone. Seven of those are now under control.
The resiliency support is intended to offer aid to those suffering from the impacts of the wildfires, as well as the ongoing pandemic and past stresses such as floods and wildfires over the past four years.
The CRD had been reaching out to people at locations such as the South Cariboo Farmers’ market to gauge what residents need to recover from the stress and push the province to provide those services. It has since had to pull back from face-to-face resiliency support following the reinstated COVID-19 protocols.
“Going to the market was a great way to connect with locals and look at what impacts are in our community,” Masun told the Free Press. “We’ve had a lot of duress.”
Susann Collins, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association in 100 Mile House, agreed more people are struggling these days. The ongoing pandemic and wildfires come on the heels of other high-stress situations, including the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, unemployment and widespread forestry curtailments.
“It’s understandable. We’re struggling with two disasters at once,” Collins said. “It’s an awful lot for people to be struggling with and it’s continuing. We’re in a community that hasn’t had a break for a long time and that’s hard on anyone. The uncertainty adds another level to things. It’s hard on a person’s wellbeing.”
CMHA offers a diverse portfolio of supports, from counselling to women experiencing domestic violence to homeless outreach, rental subsidy and support. Food security and housing are also big issues in the region.
Masun noted the CRD will now focus on providing resiliency information on its website at firstname.lastname@example.org, and encouraging people to reach out to the crisis line or the CRD’s recovery line at 1-866-759-4977.
Masun said EOC staff has been focused for the more than 52 days dealing with the wildfires, since lightning strikes first hit the region in late June. In a snapshot from July 15-Aug. 15, the CRD has issued 6,000 orders and alerts, with 56 orders.Staff has logged 2,500 overtime hours, while about 39 groups, including volunteer and community groups, have lent a hand as inter-agency support. More than 2,000 calls have come into the emergency information line.
The CRD this week lifted most of the alerts on the Flat Lake fire.