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Community bails out evacuees

The West Kelowna community has stepped up to take in the 2,500 people evacuated due to the Smith Creek fire.

Monica Giesbrecht, assistant general manager of The Heritage Retirement Centre said they have taken in about 50 people so far and still have space for more than 60 families. They are also accepting pets.

Giesbrecht said the outpouring of support from West Kelowna businesses has been "amazing."

"Wal Mart has been incredible, they opened their doors and have been giving us towels and bedding, things to sleep on," she said. Home Depot and Canadian Tire have also delivered goods to them to help out.

The suites are unfurnished, so they needed some basic gear to take care of people looking for somewhere to go. 

"It's incredible, it's overwhelming."

Sysco donated food and a barbecue has been donated. They were able to serve breakfast to everyone this morning and Tim Hortons brought donuts, muffins and coffee.

She said if the power is cut to their facility they may need flashlights as their staff have been working through the night making sure people are being taken care of. 

As can be expected, morale is low among the evacuees.

"People are really sad. They're really dealing with a big load," she said. "We had a group of them standing in the driveway last night just watching the fire, there's been a lot of tears - it's in their backyards."

Giesbrecht said although they have a nurse on site, nobody is coming in with injuries. They have called in all their staff who have been bringing their own bedding, towels and pet supplies from home to help out. 

"It's an incredible feeling to be a part of this team," she said.

Emergency support services said that about 1,200 people have registered so far at the reception centres which is now set up at Mt Boucherie Secondary School. 

Members of the public have been calling the registration reception centre offering to be connected with families in need of a place to stay, or with donations.

You can call 250-469-8490 if you need assistance or have assistance to offer.


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