The Okanagan region is no stranger to wildfires or mass evacuations — Cedar Hills, Fintry, Terrace Mountain, Kelowna, Oliver and Salmon Arm.
So it’s with context and understanding that we watch the emergency in Fort McMurray unfold. Our interest is also largely fuelled by the strong social and economic links between the Alberta oil city and our valley.
But what’s happening there is so much more dramatic than anything we have experienced to date. More than 80,000 people have fled their homes, which is almost equivalent to the entire population of the North Okanagan. As of Thursday morning, the blaze was a massive 10,000 hectares in size and at least 1,600 structures had been consumed.
Government and non-profit agencies are struggling to meet the immediate needs of those displaced, and, of course, long-term planning and recovery will eventually be on the agenda.
All of these efforts will require significant financial resources.
We would encourage all North Okanagan residents to consider making a donation to the Red Cross or other charitable agencies as they are financially able. The rest of the country has helped the Okanagan during disasters and now it’s our turn to give back.
And if making a donation is challenging, please keep our neighbours and friends in Alberta in your thoughts and prayers.