At its board meeting on November 9, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) voted to set aside $100,000 in the 2018 budget to create a monument to recognize volunteers from throughout the regional district who gave of their time during the summer 2017 wildfire season.
“It’s to appreciate the significant volunteer efforts put forward throughout the TNRD,” says TNRD CAO Sukh Gill. “People set up to help evacuees and animals. It’s the most significant event we’ve had in the province, and was a high mark in terms of magnitude and the volunteer efforts put forward. We want to recognize how much effort people put out.”
TNRD board chair John Ranta says that “It’s dramatic, the effort volunteers put in throughout the region to help evacuees. There were hundreds of volunteers at the Sandman Centre [in Kamloops] and throughout the region.”
The monument will be erected outside the Sandman Centre, hopefully in time for National Volunteer Week in April 2018. “It’s not meant to be Kamloops-centric,” says Gill. “But the vast majority of evacuees in the area went through the Sandman Centre.”
Ranta agrees. “The Sandman Centre was the epicentre for evacuees. There were 150 volunteers alone looking after animals, who are like family members.”
Over the course of the summer’s wildfire events, the TNRD—and particularly the City of Kamloops—housed approximately 11,768 evacuees from both the TNRD and the Cariboo Regional District. Some 83 per cent of these evacuees were from outside the TNRD. This would not have been possible without the contributions and hard work of countless amazing volunteers.
The total hours contributed by the rural Emergency Social Services (ESS) teams was just under 3,150, and the ESS volunteers within the City of Kamloops contributed more than 7,450 hours. In total, the Kamloops Reception Centre provided more than 38,250 hours of volunteer services to evacuees.
In addition to the support provided to evacuated people, there was also an incredible outpouring of support for the animals affected by these events, from small house pets to livestock and other large animals. It is estimated that more than 29,600 hours were volunteered to care for and support the animals that had to be relocated due to the wildfires.
In total, it is estimated that more than 75,000 hours were volunteered to support and manage the response to the 2017 wildfire events through these formal channels. This number does not reflect the incredible contributions made by the variety of other non-government organizations and people who stepped up to support in this challenging time. The TNRD feels that this incredible display of volunteerism cannot go unacknowledged, and that a permanent, artistic monument or statue offers the opportunity to recognize these contributions effectively, and on an ongoing basis.
The creation of a legacy monument will provide a number of opportunities. It will be a place for people to go to acknowledge the work done by the volunteers in our region at a time when neighbours most needed help; it will be a place of pride for those who volunteered to visit and take their families or friends to recognize their contributions; and it will act as an inspiration to others interested in volunteering for future events, big and small.
A part of the display will include space for plaques to be added, recognizing future events and volunteers’ contributions to them, based on a policy that will be developed moving forward.
Staff will be putting out a call to artists to submit concepts for the display. Staff from the TNRD and the City of Kamloops will narrow down selections from these submissions, and the work will be announced to the volunteers and organizations at an appreciation dinner early in 2018.