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article imageB.C. residents returning home after wildfires face a new problem

By Karen Graham     Jul 18, 2017 in World
Kamloops - While wildfires in British Columbia continue to burn out-of-control, the province is already looking at the complicated logistics of returning evacuees back to their homes.
Almost 40,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in British Columbia's interior as wildfires continue to rage. As of Monday evening, there were 159 fires across the province in an area between 150 kilometers (95 miles) to 350 kilometers (217 miles) northeast of Vancouver, including 17 new fires.
The federal government has already sent two planes and five helicopters to help with evacuations and transportation for first responders, according to The Guardian, and 50 Australian firefighters are due to arrive on Wednesday.
It is estimated that so far in this wildfire season, 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres), have burned, costing the province C$90 million ($70.92 million). Additionally, the provincial government has announced that $100 million in emergency funds will be made available to families impacted by the fires, while the Canadian Red Cross will hand out stipends of C$600 for displaced people.
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Returning people home
Some evacuees will be allowed to return to their homes, according to Al Richmond, the chairman of the Cariboo Regional District. But he told CTV News Canada officials have hit some logistical snags while preparing to allow resident re-entry into 100 Mile House and the surrounding area.
At a meeting in Kamloops Monday night, Richmond told the gathering, "We're beginning to look at how we can bring you, folks, home. Now, I don't want you to believe that means you're coming home tomorrow or at the end of the week. There are many things that have to be done."
The 1,000 residents of Cache Creek will be allowed to return home today, while officials are preparing to ready 100 Mile House for re-entry. But as Richmond points out, in some areas and towns, the electricity has been out for four and even more days, and the integrity of all the area's infrastructure and utilities will need to be assessed before a safe re-entry can be made.
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Health and safety issues are a priority
While it is stressful enough being forced out and away from your home because of a wildfire, it will not be a cakewalk going back home. Some families have already found out they have no home to go back to, while others may have substantial damages to their structures and property to deal with.
The Red Cross reminds people that all food in refrigerators and freezers is a health risk and will have to be disposed of properly. "So those fridges and freezes you have in your house are probably going to go, and we're going to get information about how to dispose of those," Richmond said.
"If you look at (108 Mile House) alone, 1,160 homes, times how many freezers, times how many fridges. Those are some of the logistics of taking you home." And the warning is extended to restaurants and grocery stores. All the shelves, refrigeration and freezer units will have to be emptied and then cleaned and sanitized before ordering more fresh foods.
Another risk to the health of families is the impact of heavy smoke, nearby flames and extreme heat that could affect the interior air quality of a home. For people with chemical sensitivities, or respiratory problems, including those who are immunosuppressed, it might be a good idea to check with a doctor before moving back home.
More about wildfiores, British columbia, Evacuees, Logistics, Reentry
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