British Columbia

B.C. residents advised to keep 'go bags' ready as wildfire season gets underway

Many British Columbians who vividly remember the 2017 wildfire season have already begun to get ready in case they have to leave their homes at a moment's notice. 

Phone charger, essential documents and food and water some of the items suggested for emergency kits

A motorist watches from a pullout on the Trans-Canada Highway as a wildfire burns on the side of a mountain in Lytton, B.C.. Emergency officials say people should set aside essential items in case they need to leave at a moment's notice. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Jazmyn Lyons remembers British Columbia's 2017 wildfire season very clearly. 

The resident of Williams Lake was at a bachelorette party in Las Vegas when her B.C. town was evacuated during what would become the province's worst wildfire season on record

For weeks Lyons, a self-declared "jeans and runners" kind of a gal, was stuck in transit with nothing but a few party dresses and some heels in her luggage. 

"It was a month of couch surfing and trying to get rides from one city to another, just trying to kind of work my way up to Prince George to get back to my family," Lyons said over the phone from the store she operates, The Realm of Toys.

When the news came out about the residents of Lytton, B.C., fleeing their homes as the town burst into flames in mere minutes, Lyons and her neighbours vowed to be better prepared than they were a few years ago.   

As the province gears up for what could be another hot, fiery summer, Lyons says local residents have been buzzing with advice on what people should do in case their homes are put under evacuation order. 

Emergency preparedness officials say that's exactly what people in high-risk areas should be doing. 

"The real key message here is the province is asking people to be prepared," said Pader Brach, an executive with Emergency Preparedness B.C., at a media conference Friday afternoon.  

Emergency kit essentials

Evacuation alerts posted by the most hard-hit regional districts include reminders of what to set aside in case an evacuation alert quickly turns into an evacuation order. 

Some of the items included in an emergency kit on the province's emergency preparedness website include: 

  • Cash in small bills.
  • A copy of your emergency plan, and copies of important documents, such as insurance papers.
  • A first-aid kit and medications.
  • Non-perishable food and four litres of water per person, per day. 
  • A phone charger. 
Emergency Preparedness B.C. suggests keeping a "grab-and-go" bag ready for your workplace and vehicles. (CBC)
British Columbians who live near high-risk wildfire hotspots are being advised to keep an emergency evacuation kit or 'go bags' ready in case of an evacuation alert or order. (CBC)

Lyons agrees those items are a good start. She has a box at the ready with a list taped on it, including several changes of clothes, so she doesn't need to remember what to bring if she's in a panic. 

Here are some additional tips she's gathered over the last few days: 

  • Ensure you have a list of all your emergency numbers in your phone, and written down in case your battery dies. 
  • Don't forget important paperwork like immunization records and pet records. 
  • Keep your vehicle gassed up. 
  • Insurance:
    • Make sure all of your insurance is up to date. 
    • If you do have to leave, keep receipts for everything in case you can claim them. 
    • Take photos or video of everything you own. 

Lyons says she also keeps a few essential toiletries in her car at all times, just in case. 

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