Cots are set up at Civic Arena Sunday for Williams Lake residents fleeing a wildfire. (Lisa Mazurek/Morning Star)

Wildfire concerns sparked

With thousands of people fleeing wildfires across B.C., Vernon officials are concerned an emergency could occur here.

Members of council insisted Monday that there is a need to address dry conditions on city-owned property, including the hillside above Highway 6 at Kalamalka Lake Road.

“If someone throws out a cigarette, the hillside could go up in two seconds,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

Lord insists there needs to be a strategy to minimize the potential of wildfires occurring on lots owned by the city, particularly given what is occurring across the province.

“We’re starting to have so many fires every year so it’s something we need to look at,” she said.

On the weekend, the provincial government asked the city to lodge up to 800 people evacuated from Williams Lake.

Group lodging was established at the Vernon Curling Club and Civic Arena.

“I’m pretty impressed with the professionalism of city staff and the volunteers,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

On Monday, 248 evacuees had registered but they are being billeted by friends or family in the area.

Donations for evacuees are being accepted by the Salvation Army House of Hope, 3303-32 Ave., located behind Staples. All donations should be dropped off to this location from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Gift cards for groceries, gas or dining out are appreciated.

Residents wanting to volunteer with the emergency response are asked to email ESSvolunteer@vernon.ca with a completed volunteer form available on the city’s website, or pick up a volunteer package at city hall.

Cunningham believes Vernon could be hosting evacuees for some time.

“Things aren’t getting any better out there,” she said of fire conditions.