You’ve got to admire them for smiling.
Sitting on the grass beside Cloverdale Arena, where inside Surrey has set up 108 cots for British Columbians who have been displaced by forest fires, this family from Williams Lake looks like they’re getting ready for a picnic.
What they’ve been through, though, has been anything but. Hailing from Flin Flon, Manitoba, they moved to Williams Lake this summer, to their new home and a new job for him as a millwright. Heading west with their sons Xander Roy, 8, and Logan Roy, 5, in their camper, Christina Larocque and Daniel Roy took possession of their new house on Canada Day, and paid their first mortgate and insurance payment. “Following our dreams,” Larocque says.
They arrived at the Cloverdale Arena Emergency Social Services Reception Centre for forest fire evacuees, after finding out about it on a provincial emergency website. The arena is at 6090 176th Street.
The family, like so many others, does not know if they will have a home to go back to.
“We’ve more worried about him having a job coming back,” Larocque says. “Like it’s coming in on Soda Creek and he works at the Soda Creek Tolko mill, so that’s going to be the first place to burn when it hits town, so is he going to even have a job anymore?”
Roy says they saw “lots of smoke, not a whole lot of fire. South Lake side you’ve got a good view of the three fires. You could see the smoke but we didn’t see any flames.”
“Oh no,” Laroque corrects him. “I’ve got pictures of the flames. They were shooting right up over the mountain, right across the lake from our house.”
Their children play after the couple got their number and had a snack and coffee, and wait to find out what happens next.
“I guess we’ll find out,” Larocque says. They are lucky because they can stay overnight with her mom Judy Polley, who lives in Surrey.
By Monday afternoon the Cloverdale evacuee help centre had about a dozen volunteers but Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says the city will train more this week and anyone wanting to volunteer can find out how at Surrey.ca
On Monday afternoon 108 cots were set up but at that point nobody has asked for overnight accommodation, Surrey Assistant Fire Chief Mark Griffioen said. “At this point we have not had anyone ask for accommodation here.”
“As we observe changes in the situation, we’ll scale up or down as required,” he says.
Hepner says almost 700 people had registered for help by Monday afternoon. As for the operation, she says, after taking a tour, “I think the volunteers are doing a great job.
“I think it’s running smoothly,” Hepner says.
“I’m so grateful the community is so caring and so willing to step up to the plate to help those who have been really so, so traumatized over this fire.”
As for donations, Griffioen says, “We’re asking people not to bring items here because we do not have the capacity to accept and sort and manage those. In fact, due to space limitations it would actually interfere with the efforts that we have here to serve the evacuees.”
Meantime, Ann Beaudry of Williams Lake is asking businesses in the Lower Mainland to offer discounts to help evacuees.
“I would just like to know if any businesses in the Lower Mainland, that’s anywhere from Chilliwack to Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, if any of those businesses, for food, for pet food, groceries, clothing for adults and children, if you copuld possibly offer discounts. The evacuees are getting a small amount of money to spend on themselves, however that money is very limited,” she said. “We could spend that and make our resources go a l0t longer if we could get discounts at local businesses.
“So we’re asking, please can you possibly offer us a discount, even if it’s a small one,” she says from the Cloverdale centre. “We’re not asking for donations — we’re more than willing to pay but if you can help us out by giving us a small discount at your establishment, that would be great.”
Evacuees can be identified by their registration form or by a wristband, she said.
“I’m crossing my fingers that we can go back soon.”