Sandra Carlick walks through the donation room in Terrace, B.C. on Aug. 8. She has been working with volunteers to deliver and sort through donated goods at the industrial building, where items will then be delivered to evacuees in Dease Lake, Iskut and Terrace. (Brittany Gervais/Black Press)

Yukoners rally to support Telegraph Creek residents displaced by fire

‘It’s definitely a sacred place for our family’

The Yukon government is opening a reception centre to help residents displaced by wildfires burning near Telegraph Creek, B.C.

On Aug. 9, British Columbia’s government formally requested emergency social service support in addition to the reception centres open in Dease Lake, Iskut and Terrace, B.C.

If necessary, the Whitehorse centre will coordinate non-medical survival needs, offer services for registration and inquiries, coordinate lodging and support, arrange shelter for pets, and care for those with special requirements.

Ben Asquith, CEO of the Da Daghay Development Corporation, said the corporation’s wildland fire crew headed south on Sunday to assist.

He said seven members of Charlie Crew mobilized in a number of hours. They stopped in Dease Lake to drop off supplies at a centre, before carrying on. They helped elders on their first night in the area, then started fighting the fire.

Asquith said communication has been spotty, but the crew has been at the fire line for the last two days. He said the fires recently combined to form one 35,000 hectare fire.

Asquith said 19 additional Da Daghay fire fighters are working fires in Teslin and Watson Lake. He said if the current contract with the Yukon government isn’t extended at the end of August, the remaining fire fighters will also be sent to B.C.

Right now, fire has destroyed almost 30 homes in Telegraph Creek. Two fires near the community merged overnight into one 300-square kilometre blaze, officials said.

Doug Donaldson, B.C.’s minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, said fire crews, consisting of more than 2,700 people, had luck with initial attacks.

Donaldson said Telegraph Creek was the largest of 25 fires of note burning in the province.

As of Aug. 8, Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general, said there were 22 evacuation alerts affecting 2,000 residents, and 17 evacuation orders, affecting 250 residents.

Farnworth noted that temperatures were expected to drop Friday, but said that with a cold front, wind and thunderstorm activity were a possibility.

“The X factor will be rain,” Farnworth said. If there was rain, there could be potential for more lightning.

Meanwhile, Yukon residents are rallying to raise money and help their neighbours displaced by the fires.

It was easy to choose a piece to auction off as a fundraiser for residents of Telegraph Creek, said Whitehorse resident Blake Lepine.

“There’s Always More to See” is a work of laminate flooring, acrylic paint, and mother of pearl buttons. It just fit the situation, said Lepine.

“When you rebuild from somewhere that’s burnt, it’s usually the animals that go in there first and they start doing their work.… Animals are the ones that reclaim the land.”

Lepine said he wanted to do what he could to help from Whitehorse, so he posted pictures of his work to his Facebook page. For a chance to be included in the raffle, people only had to e-transfer $10 to his PayPal account.

Those interested in bidding on Lepine’s work can visit his Facebook page, or email him at shaakoon@gmail.com.

By Aug. 9, Lepine had raised $700. He’ll continue to sell tickets until the Sept. 20 fundraiser, Tahltan Strong, being held at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

Lepine said he decided to raffle of his work because he has a connection to Telegraph Creek.

“My sweetheart, she’s Tahltan,” he said. “So she has been going down to Telegraph Creek since she was a little girl.”

In fact, the couple was in Nine Mile two weeks ago, right near Telegraph Creek.

“There was no fire and it was beautiful,” he said. “It’s been a big part of our lives. We never lived there but it’s definitely a sacred place for our family.”

Lepine isn’t the only Yukoner helping out.

Ali Pakula, who runs Alligator’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, started gathering donations through her food truck. She said she had been collecting food, toiletries, and other donations. At this point, she said the effort has gathered three trailer loads. She has stopped taking donations at the truck and is now asking people to donate money to other efforts online.

With files from CP

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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