B.C. branches aid in wildfire relief

November 30, 2017 by Stephanie Slegtenhorst
Ashcroft Reserve wildfire as seen across Loon Lake, BC in July 2017.
Shawn Cahill / Wikimedia

Legion branches across British Columbia were out in full force to aid those affected by the wildfires that spread through the province this summer.

In a letter to branches in July, Sandy Reiser, executive director of British Columbia/Yukon Command, sent out a call for help: “We do not know how long this state of emergency will last. However, the Legion should be prepared to render assistance for at least several weeks.” Reiser added that poppy funds could be used to contribute to wildfire relief efforts, as a Special Use Expenditure in accordance with the poppy manual. Branches unable to hold a general meeting to approve the expenditure of poppy funds “might consider holding a fundraiser with the explicit goal of helping those displaced by the wildfires.”

“Our command so far has raised $112,000 for the B.C. wildfires,” said B.C./Yukon Command Events and Marketing Co-ordinator Penny Aujla. With these funds, grants were approved for Prince George, Kamloops, Ashcroft and Williams Lake branches to aid in their disaster-relief efforts. At press time, Aujla was waiting to hear from a few more branches for grant requests.

Several branches held fundraisers. Agassiz Branch held a burger and brew barbeque in July, and Tofino Branch hosted a barbeque fundraiser in August, which included a raffle, silent auction and 50/50 draw. The latter raised $5,400 for those impacted by the wildfires.

Ashcroft Branch also pitched in. Volunteers at the branch prepared two meals a day for firefighters, workers and anyone in the area who needed a meal. While the branch initially used its own funds to support the meal program, monetary and food donations helped ease the burden and replenished its food stock.

Several Legion branches also opened their doors to provide shelter and reception centres for evacuees in neighbouring areas, including Prince George Branch, Agassiz Branch and Clearwater Branch.

From April 1 to Sept. 1, there were 1,154 wildfires in the province. Some 4,000 firefighters and other personnel helped combat the fires and more than 2,000 people were evacuated.

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