British Columbians offer shelter, supplies following Lytton fire

After a fast-moving fire ravaged the village of Lytton, B.C., people in cities across the province have been quick to lend a helping hand.

Less than 24 hours after the fire, several online fundraisers had already collected over $100,000 in donations for evacuees, many of whom fled the fire with none of their belongings.

On social media, many are posting in wildfire and evacuation support groups, offering rooms in their homes for evacuees.

“They’re welcome to stay, and I’ll make them some food and coffee,” says Chilliwack resident Heather Leavesley.

“I know it can be very stressful and chaotic, and you don’t know what to do first when you’re evacuating your home, so I’m offering my place for whoever is able to stay here.”

Offering shelter is nothing new for Leavesley, who says she took in evacuated livestock on her property during the 2017 B.C. wildfire season.

Evacuation reception centres have been established in neighbouring cities in B.C.’s interior, and as far west as Chilliwack.

“So far we’ve received one family needing support,” says Chris Wilson, assistant chief of the Chilliwack Fire Department. “We’re assisting them right now. This program is being delivered through our Emergency Support Services volunteers and in conjunction with Emergency Management BC.”

Lytton has a population of about 250, but it’s believed roughly 1,000 people fled the village and the surrounding area. Evacuees are urged to check in at reception centres to get any personal supplies or food they might need. They can also get help securing temporary accommodations, which can be challenging during the Canada Day long weekend. The province says those who don’t require services must register online.

“If you’ve been evacuated, whether or not you need support, register right away at ess.gov.bc.ca so that we know where you are and that you are safe,” says Mike Farnworth, B.C. minister of public safety.

Meanwhile, all tourism associations across the Fraser Valley are collecting the following items for evacuees in need:

  • New/unused bedding, such as: pillows, blankets, sheets, etc.
  • Gently used or new clothing items of all sizes
  • Gently used or new children’s toys
  • New/unused personal hygiene items, such as: sanitizers, soaps, feminine hygiene items, face and body care items, etc.
  • Gift certificates to grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential services
  • Personal electronics, such as: cell phones, chargers, batteries, computers, laptops, cameras, etc.
  • Non-perishable food items, bottled water, juice boxes
  • Camping supplies, such as: tents, sleeping bags, etc.
  • Pet supplies, such as: food, leashes, collars, kennels/cages, etc.

Donations can be dropped off at any visitors centre across the Fraser Valley beginning at 8:30 on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, the goods will be delivered to Boston Bar, where they’ll be distributed with the help of the Boston Bar First Nation.