Want to help during wildfire season? Now's the time to show up | Penticton News | iNFOnews

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Want to help during wildfire season? Now's the time to show up

Volunteer Nola Beard cuddles with Stripes, one of the cats that survived a recent South Okanagan house fire. ALERT volunteers provide aid for animals during emergency situations.
January 11, 2019 - 6:30 PM

When wildfire season is in full swing, volunteers often want to offer their assistance, but by then it's often too late if you’re not trained to a specific task, or part of a recognized group of aid providers.

If you’ve wished you could help in past seasons, or are thinking about offering help this year, now is the time to get organized and prepared for wildfire season. It isn’t that far away.

The deadline for applying to fight fires with the B.C. Wildfire Service is January 15. More than 1,000 people are hired every year for firefighting duties. B.C. Wildfire has a full list of requirements and courses and how to apply.

But it's not just firefighting.  

The Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team is a Penticton organization covering the South and Central Okanagan. It's an emergency animal response team deployed during disasters and emergencies by Emergency Support Services, or directly through the City of Penticton or the emergency operations centres.

ALERT Director of Operations Deborah McBride says the disasters and emergencies the group responds to are varied, involving anything from a house or condo fire to larger events such as wildfires and flooding. Volunteers care for animals, from fish to horses. Volunteer activity could include working with animals, if the volunteer is proficient in that realm; others could work with people or paperwork. Some volunteers drive animals from reception centres to animal intake facilities, some might be involved in humane trapping of animals, some might look after foster homes, and others might handle administrative needs.

McBride says other regions have their own rescue teams. In Kamloops, CDART, a mobile support team out of the Lower Mainland, provides assistance.

“There are only four groups in the province - Pet safe Coalition, Society of Canada,  CDART, ALERT and the SPCA,” she says.

McBride says everyone wishing to participate in the organization needs to complete a full day course in order to understand how ALERT fits into the incident command system. The cost of the course is $40 per participant, which includes the first year cost of membership, and the next course takes place in Penticton on Saturday, Jan. 26.

For more information, check out the ALERT website at: www.alertcanada.org or follow them on Facebook at Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team.

CDART founder Cheryl Rogers says the organization responds to disasters and emergencies throughout B.C. and the rest of Canada at the request of local government or other local authority.

The 100 per cent volunteer run organization has volunteers in both the Thompson and Okanagan regions.

People who wish to to help animals during disasters can contact CDART through their website, www.cdart.org or through their Facebook pages. Volunteers are required to take some emergency support services training courses as well as CDART’s introduction to emergency pet services (a day-long course), as well as pet first aid, which is also offered by CDART.

The Pet Safe Coalitions Society of Canada is based in Quesnel. Director Debbie Knabke says the society has both trained and convergent volunteers with training soon to be available online with specialty training in the animal care and first aid fields.

Pet Safe is available to assist in other areas beyond the Cariboo Regional District, if asked.

"As far as bringing in volunteers from the Thompson Okanagan we would ask for and utilize local convergent volunteers to be part of the team wherever we deploy as they know their communities and resources far better than a non-resident,” Knabke said in an email.

Pet Safe can be reached by email at: admin@petsafecoalition.ca, or by phone at: 250-255-7629.

The organization also has a website at: petsafecoalition.ca and a Facebook page.

The BCSPCA also offers opportunities for volunteers to assist animals, during emergency situations and beyond. For more information see the BCSPCA website.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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