Recovery from 2017 B.C. wildfires will ‘take years’

Nearly a year later, the Canadian Red Cross and BC Government reflect on the 2017 wildfires

Nearly one year after devastating wildfires broke out across the province, British Columbians continue to recover with the assistance of the Canadian Red Cross.

The Red Cross, working with the provincial and federal governments, has spent or committed $119.3 million over the last year —a number that represents nearly 74 per cent of the total $162.2 million B.C. Fires Appeal Fund.

• $90 million allocated; ($62.1 million spent and committed to date) to support individuals and families

• $29.1 million allocated; ($15.5 million spent and committed to date) to support community groups

• $41.9 million allocated; ($40.5 million spent and committed to date) to support eligible small business, not-for-profit organizations, and First Nations cultural livelihoods.

The B.C. Fires Appeal Fund was built via $100 million from the provincial government, $38.6 million from federal government and $23.6 million directly from Canadians’ donations.

The 2017 wildfires triggered a 10-week provincewide state of emergency and forced the evacuation of about 65,000 people from their homes.

In total, an area twice the size of Prince Edward Island was scorched in the unprecedented year of B.C. wildfires.

“Providing support for all those affected was and is a massive undertaking,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

“A lot of the issues after a disaster don’t manifest themselves immediately, the Red Cross is here for the long term, as is the province. Going forward, we know many British Columbians have a long road ahead of them and the work is not over.

“We will stand with the Red Cross and all British Columbians to help people rebuild now and into the future.”

While a year has passed since the fires sparked, there is still much work to be done.

According to the Red Cross, case workers continue to meet with individuals and families who are struggling with unmet needs due to the wildfires. The Red Cross states that needs emerge over time and at this stage in recovery those who may have been coping well until now can face unexpected challenges.

“Recovery from a disaster of this scope will take years,” said Kimberley Nemrava, vice president Canadian Red Cross, British Columbia & Yukon.

“The fires were traumatic for many, but in a true reflection of the strength and resilience of the people in the affected areas recovery is well underway.”

People still needing help are encouraged to reach out to the Red Cross, even if it is for the first time. Those interested can call 1-800-863-6582 for a confidential appointment for you and your family

The Canadian Red Cross has provided support in the following ways:

• 66,500+ distributions of financial assistance to impacted individuals and families to help during their evacuation and as they recover.

• Support for 22,500+ households as they returned home with help such as financial assistance and clean-up kits.

• 94 community partnerships to support local organizations.

• 2,500+ eligible small businesses received financial assistance.

• 7,700+ meetings with individuals and families needing ongoing help to recover (both in person and over the phone).

• 5,500+ consultations to provide emotional support for people both in-person or over the phone.

• 1,200+ households referred to external mental health and well-being supports.

• 220+ outreach visits to rural and Indigenous communities.

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