BC Wildfire Disaster Relief 2017
This report will be updated as more information comes in.
Ci Recommends: Make a one-time cash donation, not a monthly donation, to 2-3 charities. Please consider donating to different charities; all will be playing an essential role in the disaster response. Money given to one charity is likely not shared with others.
Please do not send "stuff". To be most effective do not send water, clothing, food, teddy bears, etc. So often, donated stuff creates more work for communities already in disaster response. These cities have Safeways, Superstores and local shops. Money is most effective in disaster response.
December 5, 2018, Vancouver Sun article: Canadian Red Cross donates $1 million to stop invasive plants in wildfire-ravaged BC
July 11, updated July 26: Over 36,600 people were evacuated, most to Kamloops, due to out-of-control wildfires in BC's interior Cariboo Region, particularly the towns of Williams Lake, Cache Creek, Ashcroft First Nations, and Boston Flats. Currently 19,100 people are still evacuated and are mostly in Kamloops and Prince George.
These fires are affecting small communities across BC's interior. In a situation like this, donating to charities that can help all communities affected makes sense. Better yet, split your donation between 2-3 charities. The vast majority of evacuees are in Kamloops. Donors looking to provide disaster relief may focus on charities working in Kamloops.
Charities providing disaster response services to evacuees
Canadian Red Cross will be setting up cots and blankets in reception centres for evacuees and registering evacuees. Canadian Red Cross has received $6.5 million in donations from Canadians and corporations, on top of the BC Government's donation of $100 million. It is providing an initial $600 for each evacuee household. Currently, 40,360 people have registered. Each eligible household will receive $600 (estimated $6.4 million). Registration had initial glitches with on-line registration taking 4 days to be operational and apparently evacuee registration centres did not have registration forms. Evacuees experienced significant delays of up to three days with telephone registration until July 13.
In the Fort McMurray disaster response, Canadian Red Cross Canadian spent an estimated $165 million in the disaster's first 3 months aiding over 88,000 evacuees who were evacuated for one month, with $75 million of this spending being direct cash transfers to evacuees. In the first 3 months, Canadian Red Cross spent 51% of its funds helping in the disaster and re-entry.
For the BC Fires, Canadian Red Cross commits to helping with immediate needs stating that "donations may help re-entry and long-term recovery and disaster resilience" 2. It is this re-entry and long-term recovery phases that have traditionally received most of Canadian Red Cross funding support. Red Cross is well positioned since it has an existing local presence in both Kamloops and Prince George. Prince George is a "hub" Canadian Red Cross site with disaster services, in addition to all Canadain Red Cross programs including home medical equipment loans, swimming classes, and family reunification. Donate to Canadian Red Cross BC fires appeal
Salvation Army is in Williams Lake and Kamloops providing meals to evacuees and firefighters. July 8-9 in Williams Lake, it provided over 1,750 meals. Teams are on the ground and in Kamloops greeted an estimated 3,500 evacuees from Cache Creek, supplying "hydration and emotional support"3. Salvation Army runs the food bank in Prince George. Salvation Army is running the emergency reception centre in Kelowna. Evacuees are now arriving in Kelowna with 300 families received in the last few days. Salvation Army also has a large local presence in Prince George. Donate to Salvation Army BC fires appeal
Samaritan's Purse responded and did the "heavy lifting" in BC's 2015 Wildfires 4. More than just blankets, Samaritan's Purse goes in with forklifts for debris clearing and the dirty work of removing contaminated fridges and freezers. Samaritan's Purse work begins in the re-entry phase. Donate to Samaritan's Purse
Kamloops Foodbank and Outreach Society is going to be overwhelmed. In 2016 it reports distributing 2 million pounds of food, serving 7,000 people, delivering food to 44 regional charity partners. Kamloops Foodbank distributes food to the smaller communities in the Cariboo region. Food banks play a critical role in disaster response helping all evacuees. Fort McMurray volunteers drove all night to deliver 4 tonnes of food and supplies. In the recovery, when residents can return home, Kamloops Foodbank will provide donated food to Ashcroft, Cache Creek and 100 Mile House. On-line donations through Canada Helps
Prince George Humane Society CBC reports that this animal shelter is approaching capacity in providing a temporary home for evacuee pets. Providing temporary care will be a large unexpected cost for this small charity. Donate through Canada Helps
BC SPCA is relocating and caring for over 40 animals from shelters near the wildfire. Likely co-ordinating with Kamloops and District Humane Society. CBC News has a special report on animal rescue charities responding.
This is not a complete list, rather charities mentioned in news reports and fundraising on Canada Helps BC Fires disaster page.
Prince George city officials say material donations are NOT needed at emergency reception centres. Only 7% of Prince George's evacuees are staying in the evacuation centre, with the rest staying with family and friends, in RVs and trailers, or hotels. The City of Prince George has distributed $220,000 in grocery vouchers and local gyms are opening up change rooms and showers to evacuees. Services to evacuees are being provided by Northern Health, Canadian Red Cross, Salvation Army and the RCMP.
Heads up: disaster responses bring out the best in Canadian generosity, and also an opportunity for other charities to raise money. The line-up of charities fundraising to help BC Wildfire evacuees is nicely limited. Some charities may have the best of intentions but are less effective or experienced. With limited information, donors need to parse the “do gooders” from “good doers”.
Take for example Disaster Aid Canada; it is fundraising to help those affected by BC Wildfires. It intends to fly supplies into Prince George from its base in Victoria, BC. Prince George has major stores. It is hard to quantify the need for supplies to be flown into Prince George. Disaster Aid Canada is a small charity reporting $172,000 in donations and fundraising revenues in 2016.
Legacy Place Society is also fundraising. Founded by Calgary and Edmonton police officers, it seeks to provide stress management support for BC wildfire fighters and their families. In the Fort McMurray disaster response, Legacy Place helped organize billets and accommodations for 36 families. In 2015, Legacy Place’s most recent annual filing, it reports donations and fundraising events revenue of $426,000.
ADRA Canada is fundraising for donations to provide evacuees with basic needs. This 7th-day Adventist Church responded to Fort McMurray's fire by flying 2,000 hygiene kits from Toronto to Edmonton and delivered 16 truckloads of supplies to Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum where evacuees were sheltered. Perhaps it is worth repeating, Prince George's city council has said material donations are not needed, at this time.
One of Fort McMurray's lessons is how evacuees need legal aid to work through insurance claims. Access Pro Bono Society of BC is offering free legal aid for wildfire evacuees. In its F2016 charity filings, Access Pro Bono is a small charity; it reported $140,000 in donations and fundraising last year.
Food Banks BC is also raising money to help the evacuees, communities and food banks affected by the fire. While a provincial body, Food Banks BC is smaller than the frontline, local food banks in Kamloops and Prince George. In Food Banks BC 2016 annual return it reports $1.2 million in cash donations and distributed 1.8 million pounds of food.
Mennonite Disaster Services, based in Winnipeg, a different charity from Mennonite Central Committee, is raising money to focus on the BC Fires clean up, repair and rebuilding homes. In the Calgary floods, Mennonite Disaster Services worked with Samaritans Purse. In the Fort McMurray response, Mennonite Disaster Services was initially unable to build homes due to the toxic ash, and instead provided blankets and school supplies in September 2016. July 2017 Mennonite Disaster Services, along with 5 other charities, built 3 homes in Fort McMurray for families that were un-insured or under-insured.
Disaster response is one of the trickiest areas for donors; events are still unfolding, charities are asking for donations now and donors have little information about each charity's plans for spending the money. Charity Intelligence finds track records in disaster response is the best measures for effective donations.
1. Roshini Nair and Liam Britten, "B.C. is burning: 14,000 people displaced in hot, dry conditions. Evacuation orders issued in many communities, $100M relief fund set up" CBC News July 11, 2017
3. Salvation Army Responds to B.C. Wildfires July 10, 2017
5. Kamloops Food Bank, "Thank you, Fort McMurray"
6. Liam Britten, Chad Pawson, "11 emergency centres across B.C. scramble to help 36,600 wildfire evacuees" CBC News, July 16, 2017
7. Josh Dehaas, "They were not prepared: B.C. fire evacuees frustrated with officals, Red Cross" CTV News, July 11, 2017
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