Kamloops city council would like to see a dedicated facility for emergency support services established in the Tournament Capital, presenting a proposal to a provincial minister on Wednesday.
Council members met with Bowinn Ma, minister for emergency management and climate change readiness on Wednesday, pitching the idea of a dedicated regional support hub that would help serve evacuees.
Coun. Bill Sarai said dedicated volunteers are setting up at city facilities to provide emergency supports for longer periods of time than in past years given the frequency and severity of events like wildfires and floods.
“It's unfortunate, we're really good at emergency evacuations, we're good at intake, we're good at getting people houses and fed,” Sarai said.
“What we're saying is maybe we need a year-round facility that isn't a sports centre, that isn't a yacht club.”
Sarai said the city will provide these facilities when there’s a need, but the buildings aren’t meant for emergency shelter and intake.
He said council is envisioning a provincially funded facility which would be a space for evacuee intake, noting a dedicated building would also serve for better volunteer training.
“They know the layout, so they don’t walk in and have to set up, and not knowing what goes were, where’s the equipment, what truck is bringing this in — it’s already ready to go,” Sarai said.
The councillor said Kamloops is already a regional hub, so the city would be a natural fit for such a facility.
“Kamloops is such a welcoming community for everything. We always think sports and Music in the Park — we're also ready to help our neighbours,” he said.
“Whether they're in Merritt, Barriere, Williams Lake, we're never going to step away and turn our backs on any of them.”
Coun. Dale Bass said the proposal for a dedicated emergency support facility was brought to the province years ago, but it’s now been resubmitted to the new ministry.
“They were really intrigued by the whole idea," she said. "Bowinn said no money, but that might not stop me, so let's talk about it more."
Bass said since original conversations about the facility happened with Emergency Management B.C., climate change has “dramatically” impacted the reality of emergency response, and increased the potential for such a building to be used year-round.
Bass said it seemed Ma wanted to run with the idea.
“She said that she had been talking with Eby about that, anyhow, the fact that they have to change the way they approach how hubs like us, who take in thousands of people every summer now, deal with it,” Bass said.
This summer, the province partnered with Tk’emlups te Secewpemc to set up a camp for up to 300 wildfire evacuees in Rayleigh. The camp eventually housed people who had to evacuate from the Bush Creek East wildfire in the Shuswap area.
Bass said staff will be working to make headway on the proposal, noting the city will be proactive to ensure it moves forward.
She said the ministry wants to see the city work with Tk'emlups and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to ensure the facility would be a true regional hub.
Sarai said the minister has asked the city to help identify some sites, “and we’ll go from there.”