Despite being a couple of hours away, Grand Forks residents have pitched in and helped out with their displaced neighbours from the west. Residents and businesses have donated much needed supplies such as food, water, blankets, toiletries and much more. Some locals even opened up their houses to evacuated friends and strangers alike.
When Jenna Edwards found the information on the wildfire lacking she started a Facebook page called Rock Creek Fire and Evacuation Information. She and her family also provided a warm and safe place to stay for 13 evacuees from the Kettle River Campground.
Edwards said she heard about the fire at work on Friday. She has a friend who worked with her at Boundary Lodge who lives in Westbridge area near Rock Creek.
“She called me at about 5 p.m.and told me she had to go home, they were evacuating her family and she had a bunch of livestock she had to deal with,” said Edwards. “I was trying to find information and I couldn’t find anything except on What’s up in Grand Forks site. I thought, people in Rock Creek aren’t going to find this information. There not going to look under Grand Forks so I threw together a Facebook page and all the information kind of came together online.”
In only a day or so, the page grew to around 2,500 members and has become the info hub for many.
“I just wanted to find information in one spot,” she said. “That it has taken off so well that’s great.”
Edwards said her Facebook page has been a great way to link up organizations and businesses with people who need aid.
“With that, there was information about evacuees and where they were going,” said Edwards. “I posted that we had enough room for 15 people if they needed it. There was a group of 13 people that was sent to us at 10:30 that night (Friday).”
Edwards said she was contacted by the Midway Evacuation Centre at 9 p.m. Friday and an hour or so later they had 13 people and a dog at their door step.
“They came from the campground and had nothing but the bathing suits they were wearing,” she said. “I put a call out on the website for blankets and pillows and they started arriving immediately. We made up our tent trailer and our bed and breakfast and we had a tent for the blankets and pillows.”
Once the group was settled Edwards put a call for food and once again businesses and residents stepped up with several donations. After breakfast, the group drove to Midway for an information session using a van donated by Katie’s Kiddy Kare.
“They found out that some of the campground did not burn down and there still may be some trailers standing,” she said. “They were then housed in hotels in Grand Forks with the disaster relief fund and they’ve been staying here waiting to get back into the campground. It was my understanding they couldn’t get back Saturday because of the winds.”
Edwards said the group was pretty calm considering the circumstances. “They were exhausted, I think, by the time they got here,” she said. “They’re pretty resilient. They were a great group. They might’ve been a little traumatized and in a state of disbelief but they were a strong, resourceful group.”
Edwards said some of the group were from the Shuswap area of B.C. And some were from the Calgary area.
Edwards added it that it was great to see all the communities come together. “I’m so proud of everybody,” she said. “It’s been unbelievable. Funny, the day we were shipping loads away to Midway we thought should we be giving everything away because we could be in the same boat and they’d be sending it back to us.”
Despite being surrounded by wildfires, highway closures and plenty of smoke, the people of Grand Forks put the needs of others first.