B.C. wildfires: frequently asked questions 2017
Everything you needed to know about the B.C. wildfires during the wildfire season of 2017
With thousands in crisis and facing uncertainty, wildfires in B.C. have caused the province to declare a state of emergency.
This list of frequently asked questions contains resources on everything from evacuations, current road closures, finding a place to stay and next steps, if you've been ordered to evacuate.
It will be updated to reflect current information. You can also follow #BCWildfire for the latest information.
How do I find out if I'm under evacuation order or alert?
Alerts and orders are issued by local governments, which also distribute maps of the areas affected. These can all be found on the Emergency Info B.C. website.
Regional districts also provide phone numbers you can call to ask if you are affected. For the current wildfires of note, the contact information is as follows:
- Cariboo (Williams Lake, 100 Mile House): 1-866-759-4977
- Thompson-Nicola (Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Little Fort): 1-866-377-7188
- Okanagan-Similkameen (Princeton): 250-490-4225
- Bulkley-Nechako: 250-692-3195
The Cariboo and Okanagan-Similkameen also have interactive maps that work similar to Google Maps to show evacuation zones.
What do I do once evacuated?
People who require immediate assistance, such as a place to sleep or grocery vouchers, should register in person at a designated emergency reception centre. You can find a list of reception centres here.
Emergency Social Services programs have been set up at these locations.
What should I pack if I am ordered to evacuate?
All information on what to do if you are ordered to evacuate can be found on the Province of B.C. website.
The province recommends preparing an emergency kit with water, personal medications, cell phone charger and other essential supplies.
How can I find out where all the fires are located?
BCWildfire.ca provides a list of active wildfires.
They can also be seen on this interactive map.
The map shows roughly where a fire is and its approximate size. Information is updated throughout the day, however, evacuation orders and alerts are still issued through local governments.
A list of wildfires of note can be found at the BC Wildfire Service.
Where can I find out about road closures?
For road closures, Drive B.C. is updating its website as frequently as possible, sometimes as often as every five minutes.
For those unable to access a computer, you can call for information toll-free at 1-800-550-4997.
Should I register with the Red Cross?
The Red Cross has taken on the task of tracking evacuees to make sure they are safe, reconnecting family members and facilitating long-term assistance. They are asking everyone to register with them, even those not in need of assistance.
People who should register include:
- People who have been evacuated
- People who are under evacuation order but have not left
- People who have not received an evacuation order but have left (on alert)
- People who have NOT left but are on alert
You can register at a reception centre, at redcross.ca or by calling 1-800-863-6582.
How can I get financial assistance, and how much will I receive?
The Red Cross is working alongside government partners to provide direct financial assistance to evacuees who have registered with them. Eligible households will receive $600 per household in direct financial assistance through an electronic funds transfer – the quickest, most secure way to receive funds.
Is there any way evacuees can have telephone fees waived?
Telus is automatically cancelling overage fees for texting, data, and calling for their evacuated customers, while Rogers will be waiving their overage fees until July 21.
Evacuees who use Bell Mobility are asked to call 250-310-2355 for more information, and Virgin Mobile customers are asked to call to 1-888-999-2321.
If I have left an area on alert, or have been evacuated and chosen to stay, can I still receive the same assistance?
The Red Cross aims to help everyone affected by the fires and will be reviewing everyone's situation on a case-by-case basis. This includes people who have left on alert but not been evacuated under order, people who have been evacuted but chosen to stay,
How can I locate family members who have been ordered to evacuate?
As the Red Cross is creating a database of evacuees, it is also best-equipped to help find someone, provided they've been registered. To ask for help finding someone, call the same toll-free number at 1-800-863-6582.
Interior Health has also relocated many of its patients and people in care to other locations but has not yet had time to alert all family members.
They have set up a toll-free number and email address to help find loved ones at 1-877-442-2001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can I find a place to stay (or offer one)?
A number of online resources are available to help people and families find accommodations or help match hosts with people in need.
- 2017 BC Wildfire Emergency Peer Accommodation Matching
- Evacuee Alternative Accommodations Prince George
- Airbnb Urgent Accomodations
There are also Facebook groups:
How can I find (or offer) help?
The City of Prince George has set up a volunteer recruitment and training centre from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week until further notice.
Offers of help are being compiled through various community Facebook pages and other websites, including:
- Prince George Welcoming Cariboo Evacuees
- BC Wildfire Evacuee Support Group
- Central Interior Wildfire Evacuees in Prince George: Info, Help and Resources
- TNRD Volunteer Connections — 2017 Wildfire
- TNRD Donations and Lodging
Where can I find a place for my animals or livestock?
Many reception centres are connecting owners with spaces for their pets to stay and receive care. There are also a number of groups finding spaces for animals and livestock.
- BC WildFire Animal Resource map
- BC's Emergency Livestock /Animal Evacuation Group
- Missing Horses And Livestock BC Wildfire 2017
How can I find my lost or left-behind pet?
The B.C. SPCA is deploying special constables to evacuated regions of the province to find and care for pets and livestock left behind fire lines.
Evacuees from the Cariboo Regional District can register left-behind pets by calling 1-855-622-7722 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. (5:00 p.m. on weekends).
Evacuees in other regions are directed to contact their regional district.
Owners affected by wildfire also qualify for free registration with the SPCA's B.C. Pet Registry using the offer code "Reunite."
How do I get my mail?
An ongoing list of service disruptions can be found by visiting the Canada Post website.
Evacuees can sign up for a free temporary mail forwarding service through Canada Post by visiting any one of their offices or online at canadapost.ca/mailforwarding.
Searches for critical items already in the mail, including medicine and passports, can be initiated by calling 1-800-267-1177.
Where can I donate money to help?
You can quickly donate $10 to the Red Cross by texting "fires" to 45678.
Donations to the Red Cross are now also accepted at all B.C. Liquor Stores and Canadian Tire locations.
Cash donations to the Canadian Red Cross are also being accepted at Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, Extra Foods, Independent, Loblaws, City Market and Wholesale Club stores.
You can also donate your Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum points to the relief efforts. The company is matching all points donated to a maximum of $25,000.
If I am returning home after being evacuated, how do I clean up and deal with the damage?
The Guide to Wildfire Recovery from the Red Cross covers all essential steps to returning home and starting the cleaning up process.
People returning home may find red-coloured fire retardant covering some or all of their property. This substance prevents the spread of fire and is similar in composition to fertilizer. It can be scrubbed off with soap and water.
Fridges and freezers may be kept depending on the extent of damage. This guide outlines how to make insurance claims on spoiled food and the safe disposal of an appliance.
Crews are also planning to visit areas where evacuees are returning, in order to show residents safe clean-up practices.
How do I check the air quality?
Environment Canada issues air quality advisories as part of its public weather alerts.