B.C. city at centre of 2017 wildfires hosts world café so residents can share their experiences

A world café-style gathering in Kamloops, B.C., will encourage residents to share their experiences from 2017's wildfire season.

Opportunity for Kamloops and area to weigh in on B.C. wildfire impacts, how to prepare for next time

People throughout B.C.'s Interior were affected by the summer's record-breaking wildfires in 2017. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

A world café-style gathering in Kamloops, B.C., in January will give residents a chance to reflect on the 2017 wildfires centred on Kamloops.

A world café is a structured conversation featuring participants at several tables.

Dan Hines, a Kamloops minister and one of the organizers of After the Fires: A Kamloops World Café about the 2017 B.C. Wildfires, said conversations among professionals and leaders have taken place, but residents of the areas affected haven't been given the opportunity to share their experiences and ideas.

"This is an opportunity for tapping into collective wisdom," he said. "There are innovations and ideas and strategies and blind spots in every crisis and event."

The gathering on Jan. 28 will have space for about 100 people to attend to talk at a table level, with no microphones or experts leading the discussion, about how the fires impacted them personally and share ideas on how the community could plan or deal with future major fire events. 

Hines said organizers also want to talk about the heavy smoke that Kamloops saw, causing extremely poor air quality and preventing many from going outside.

"It changed the summer for everybody," he said. 

Kamloops experienced its worst air quality on record on Aug. 3, 2017. It hit 49 on the air quality scale, with anything over 10 considered high risk. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

Hines said he's noticed what he calls "soul trauma" in Kamloops following a dramatic summer for the city and its surrounding communities. 

"All of that accumulates in the community on an individual level, but I think there's also a psychic hit that takes place," he said. "I notice a low-level depression in the community."

While evacuees were in Kamloops during the wildfires, Hines facilitated spiritual services to help guide people through a difficult and stressful time. Now that the fires are over, and it's cold and snowy in B.C.'s Interior, Hines said some of the rawness of the event has faded and a reflective discussion should happen. 

"We might glean some really interesting ideas from this evening," he said.  

The cafe will take place on the evening of Jan. 28 at St. Paul's Cathedral in Kamloops.

Organizers are asking people planning to attend to RSVP on the Eventbrite page, so they can plan accordingly.