Firefighters work to put out an apartment building fire at the corner of Dogwood Street and 9th Avenue in Campbell River, B.C. on April 8, 2020. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror

VIDEO: Community rallies around Campbell River fire victims

Emergency Social Services volunteers logged over 100 hours in first day after fire

A fire that displaced over 80 residents in Campbell River on Wednesday also ignited a spark of community support for the people affected.

Campbell River Emergency Support Services has placed the 86 residents in the Coast Discovery Inn for seven days, and are working with partner agencies to find a more permanent solution.

“We’re going to be working hard into the weekend to brainstorm what a long-term solution could look like and what else is available for these people,” said Strathcona Regional District protective services coordinator Shaun Koopman.

Emergency Support Services is volunteer run, and the volunteers have been putting in long hours to ensure the people affected by the fire are cared for. Koopman explained that some have been putting in 12-hour days and volunteering their weekend to help out.

“They’ve probably done about 150 hours of volunteer time,” Koopman said. “Many of them were on site for 10-12 hours yesterday and have offered to assist into the weekend.”

Emergency Support Services typically provides lodging and other necessities to people affected by these kinds of emergencies. However, due to COVID-19, the province has adopted a new set of guidelines for ESS workers to ensure proper social distancing and to help prevent the spread of the virus. Some of the new protocols include things like not needing signatures from evacuees and no longer supporting group lodging.

Though the virus has made the emergency response difficult, in some ways, Koopman said, it has streamlined the process.

“An event like this during regular times would be a very difficult registration process to find commercial accommodation,” Koopman said. “For this event, the Coast Discovery Inn didn’t have many people staying there. We were able to call them up and everybody got on the buses provided and were brought right down. From that perspective, COVID-19 almost made it simpler than regular times.”

However, maintaining social distancing has been difficult for the volunteers and the people displaced. Typically, volunteers assist with both clerical work like registering the people affected with the ESS system and face time to help with mental health. Volunteers have now been working remotely these jobs.

Elsewhere in the city, a group of Campbell Riverites have been working together to collect donations of money, goods and even some Easter goodies for the families and children who have been displaced because of the fire.

Sharon Webb is one of the coordinators of a Facebook group dedicated to helping. She and the group have been working to ensure the fire evacuees are able to have fresh clothes and toiletries. The group has also started a fund with the United Way to help raise money for the families, and has been coordinating with local groups to secure free or sponsored access to a laundromat for the people affected by the fire.

“At this point, clothing and toiletries so the people can have a shower and put on fresh clothes,” she said. “Those are the big ones.”

Webb, like all of the people who have been working to help those affected, has been putting in long hours over the last few days. While ESS usually has a system in place to help people after a disaster, that system has been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Webb said that she has had to set up a no-contact pickup system for donations, and has been washing clothes in her own personal machine to ensure they are safe.

Though a lot of thought has been directed at ensuring people have a place to stay and access to basic necessities, another concern has popped up. When she saw the fire, Webb’s daughter Kendra inquired about a certain fluffy visitor who is scheduled for this weekend.

“That was my daughter’s number one concern when she saw the fire. She asked ‘Mommy, what is going to happen with those kids and the Easter bunny,’ ” Webb said.

After a donation of $500 from Emily Goodwin, a local musician who busked for three hours to raise the funds, Webb has been able to secure some necessities and Easter goodies for the kids currently in the hotel.

“She sang on the side of 9th and Greenwood for a good three hours yesterday in the middle of the street. She was able to raise about $500,” Webb said. “With that $500, I’ve been buying brand new socks, brand new underwear, and Easter goodies for the kids, including bubbles, colouring books, a book to read, chocolates and things that kids normally get on Easter.”

A donation drop off location has been set up at the Laichwiltach Family Life Society gymnasium. People who want to donate are asked to make an appointment before coming to maintain social distancing. The centre can be reached at 250-286-3430. Financial donations can be made by clicking here. Updated information on what is needed can be found at the Support Fire Evacuees Facebook page.

“Their kindness and generosity is what makes Campbell River what it is, and why we like to call this place home.” Koopman said.

“The very best way that people can assist someone who has been displaced is to be trained on how to be an ESS volunteer, and do that beforehand,” he added. “The quality of service that we can offer thee people is entirely dependent on the quality trained volunteers that we have in the community.”

Those interested in being an ESS volunteer can contact campbellriveress@gmail.com.

RELATED: More than 85 people displaced by Campbell River apartment fire



marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Campbell RiverfireNews

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tsolum River Restoration Society members keeping busy during COVID-19 times

Young fish can get stranded in the most unlikely of places

Police looking for witnesses to Courtenay bear spray assault

The incident took place Tuesday, May 26 at around 8:30 p.m.

2020 Hornby Island trade tokens of sentimental value only

The Hornby Island Token Project is in its third and final year,… Continue reading

Box containing hundreds of family photos found in Courtenay returned to rightful owner

Local media sources collaborate to solve family photos mystery

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Comox Valley business map offers information on local eateries, grocery stores and more

Search and click for hours and services offered during the COVID-19 pandemic

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

RCMP told of alleged assault in Courtenay hours after the fact

Police only made aware of possible attack through social media posts

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

Stolen gargoyle returns to its perch on central Vancouver Island yard

Petey, a concrete gargoyle statue, was returned by Nanaimo RCMP after being found by city crew

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Most Read