From her kitchen table at home in Big Lake east of Williams Lake Joan Sorley has been running a command centre ever since wildfires erupted in the Central Cariboo.
The Area F Cariboo Regional District director said she’s got her computer, phone and laptop, working from 6 a.m. until midnight, without barely leaving her chair.
“I don’t have time to eat,” she told the Tribune Friday morning.
A few days ago she “hired” an assistant, Michelle Roberts.
“Michelle’s salary is zero. Her benefits are zero and the rewards are minimal,” Sorley said chuckling as she interrupted the phone interview to give Roberts a password for the computer.
There’s a hub of activity, Sorley said.
“It seems like the entire community has turned out and everybody’s got a job to do. It’s just awesome.”
People in some of the communities are not cut off, but they are feeling isolated, she added.
“They have to use a lot of gas to go around the long way and get town where there may or may not be the supplies that they need.”
Situations change rapidly and Sorley is telling people to stay home if they can and through her official Area F Director Facebook page she gives detailed updates constantly.
Community designates have been established in each community.
Likely, it’s Lisa Kraus at 250-790-2449.
Horsefly, it’s Linda Bartsch at 250-620-3333.
Big Lake, the contact is Leanne Schiemann and people can contact her by stopping in at the Big Lake Fire Hall or message her on her Facebook. Big Lake Fire Chief Bruneski has asked people not to call the fire hall unless it’s urgent because the phone is very busy and they only have one line.
Miocene, Ross McCoubrey 250-296-4285 is the designate.
“The designates are arranging prescriptions and essential supplies,” Sorley said.
Donations have started to come in from Fort McMurray and other places and distribution centres are being set up in community halls or other central locations for items that people are donating.
“The donations have been rolling in since Tuesday,” she said.
McLeese Lake Community Hall is open to receive donations and from there will be fanning items out to the communities.
On Thursday, Sorley attended a community meeting in the Miocene hall that was packed, she said.
“People want to know the kinds of things like is the Beaver Valley Road open today or is the Ditch Road OK? Or even who has gasoline today? When’s the next shipment for the store coming in? These are the kind of questions the Emergency Operations Centre doesn’t have time to deal with.”
She and Roberts are also expending energny dispelling rumours on social media.
“That is so important. If someone comments that they heard something, then it gets everybody in a panic. And worse than that, there is an individual invoking the name of the Miocene fire chief and saying that fires are out of control in the Miocene area. I’ve talked to the chief this morning about getting a Facebook-literate person to get me a message as soon as they hear something like that and we will post it right away.”
Sorley said the Big Lake Fire Hall has been used as staging place for Ministry of Forests crews and five helicopters.
“The forestry are co-ordinating with the volunteer fire department and they are actually involved in making sure that the community volunteers — whether they are loggers, heavy equipment operators, or just guys with picks and shovels — are OK,” Sorley said. “They are welcoming the efforts of the community volunteers while making sure everybody is safe and it’s working.”