B.C. recognizes wildfire, flood volunteers, first responders with new award | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. recognizes wildfire, flood volunteers, first responders with new award

October 14, 2017 - 5:01 PM

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Wildfires across British Columbia forced thousands of people from their homes and destroyed hundreds of buildings this summer, but the province's premier says the disaster also prompted extraordinary acts of community.

Now the government is looking to recognize those who went out their way to fight the flames, provide shelter for evacuees or otherwise help their community during the crisis.

"Wherever people needed help, they got help. Wherever a helping hand was required, one was offered," Premier John Horgan said Saturday.

"Whether it was cooking meals, whether it was opening up their homes, whatever was needed, was offered. It was inspiring and that's what true community is all about."

Horgan said people who stepped up to help will be recognized with new "Above and Beyond" awards. Nominations for the honour can be made online or by mail, and everyone who is nominated will receive a certificate of distinction, signed by the premier.

People who provided relief when floods hit the Okanagan last spring are also eligible for the award.

Horgan said the recognition is about recording a moment in the province's history.

"We want to make sure 2017 is remembered by British Columbians as the great moment where we all came together and demonstrated the proud community spirit that makes us so strong as a province and as a country," he said.

But Horgan acknowledged there's still recovery work to be done in many areas devastated by the fires.

A news release from the province says the fires forced around 65,000 people from their homes and B.C. spent more than $522 million in firefighting costs. Flames also scorched more than 12,000 square kilometres and destroyed 509 structures, including 229 homes.

Now that the flames have largely subsided, provincial officials are looking at what they can do going forward, Horgan said, noting that plans are in the works to get marketable timber out of burnt forests and to "aggressively" promote tourism in areas hard-hit areas.

He said the province is also working with Ottawa to help ranchers and farmers who lost infrastructure and animals in the fires.

"But most importantly, we need to all hang together and learn the lessons of the summer so that next year we're better prepared," Horgan said.

The BC Wildfire Service website says a small fire crew is still working on a single fire of note in the southeastern part of the province. The White River fire was sparked by lightning in late July and has burned through about 264 square kilometres northeast of Kimberley.

Provincial firefighters could soon be fighting flames south of the border, too.

Cliff Chapman with the BC Wildfire Service said Saturday that if the agency receives a request to assist with deadly wildfires burning in California, it will send help.

Horgan said that only makes sense, since so many international firefighters came to B.C.'s aid this summer.

"We stand ready to help those who helped us, absolutely," he said.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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