An emergency reception centre in B.C.’s interior. (Momikara/Twitter)

Wildfire evacuees frustrated with Red Cross waits

Red Cross says first cash assistance packages came out yesterday

Long waits for Red Cross registration are causing frustration for B.C. wildfire evacuees.

“We went in to the emergency centre in 100 Mile before the evacuation and they said to go online and call,” said 100 Mile House evacuee Jeremy Welch.

When Welch called, he was given an option to press ‘1’ and assured he would be called back. That took six hours.

“They took our information and said it could take some time to process,” he said. “They told us if you don’t hear back to call again.”

Welch didn’t hear back so he called, waiting on hold for nearly two hours until he managed to speak with someone.

“I’m not only person in this situation,” he said. “The funds and manpower just aren’t there.”

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B.C. and Yukon Red Cross vice-president Kimberley Nemrava said that they understand the evacuees frustration and are adding more resources by the day.

“People can rest assured that we will make sure everyone has chance to be registered,” Nemrava said. “We have dramatically increased Red Cross phone lines.”

The Red Cross is provided $600 cash to people displaced by the wildfires.

“We sent out the first wave of cash assistance yesterday,” she said but cautions that they funds aren’t meant to be a cure all.

“This is not to replace emergency social services if people. This is just to replace cost they would incur when they are evacuating.”

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Namrava didn’t have total registration numbers yet and noted that the Red Cross has to first validate that registrants are legitimate and then ensure the money has been delivered before they can tally up final numbers.

“We are asking people to be patient.”

The Red Cross isn’t taking non-monetary donations, Namrava said, but encourages people to work with their communities to help out evacuees.

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“I’m sure you can appreciate the logistical challenges of sorting, packing, transporting and distributing the goods. Money is the most flexible for agency and client,” she said. “It also contributes to local economies which have taken a hit.”

Namrava said she’s been amazed by both the generosity of cash donations and efforts.

“People are taking in livestock and putting evacuees up for a few days.”

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