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Local Red Cross volunteers helping victims of B.C. wildfires

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Troy Shantz

A couple of Sarnians have been in British Columbia helping with the relief effort as the province battles its worst wildfires in at least half a century.

Megan O’Neil-Renaud is a Red Cross volunteer stationed at Williams Lake, a community of 10,000 located in the middle of 163 individual wildfires.

Another city resident, Ken Tulloch, recently completed a three-week term there, also with the Red Cross.

“The largest fire in B.C. is two kilometres away,” said O’Neil-Renaud, who is on a two-week placement.

“There are a number of small communities nearby that have recently been evacuated.”

She is working in logistics, processing people who have been forced out of their homes or who are cleared to return to them.

“They come here, they get registered (and) we give them other assistance,” said the co-founder of the non-profit One Tomato Project in Sarnia.

“All sorts of different agencies are here and we’re just getting everybody what they need to get shelter.”

Living conditions were difficult when The Journal caught up with O’Neil-Renaud last week. The burning forest had filled the air with smoke and the sky appeared to be “snowing ash,” she said.

The emotional trauma experienced by the thousands of displaced people is difficult for all involved, said O’Neil-Renaud, who is on evacuation alert, meaning if the order comes she has just 15 minutes to gather her things and leave.

“We know the fire is very close,” she said.

O’Neil-Renaud began volunteering with the agency in June.

“I thought for a long time that to volunteer for Red Cross you had to be medical,” she said. “Then I found out … they need on-the-ground caseworker people.”

The province remained in a state of emergency with 7,000 people evacuated.

Officials have also predicted conditions would get worse before they get better.

To contribute to the Red Cross relief effort visit www.redcross.ca/donate.

 

 

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