Fire Fighting in Canada

Uncategorized Emergency Management
B.C. community ESS director requests more council, interagency support

April 12, 2023 
By John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The person who co-ordinates support for people forced from their homes by fire and other emergencies in the Nakusp, B.C., area says people have a lot of misconceptions about the work she does.

“People don’t understand what a reception centre is and how it is run,” Marilyn Gustafson told Nakusp politicians at the March 23 meeting of Village council. “It’s strictly for evacuees, and all we do is registration and referrals – we might offer snacks and coffee.”

The Emergency Support Services director for Area K-Nakusp said during the massive 2021 fire season, which forced the evacuation of Edgewood and Fauquier, many people came to the centre thinking it a catch-all resource during an emergency. That’s something it’s not designed for, she said.

Gustafson came to council asking for support for her application for a community grant from the RDCK. She is asking for $3,000 for new shelving for the office area and secure filing cabinets for sensitive documents.


But she says the grant she’s applying for will only do so much – that local governments have to recognize that with environmental disasters becoming more frequent, the job will have to be made more permanent.

“I’m seeing that this position would need to be paid at some point, even a minimal amount,” she told councillors. “It’s really difficult to find volunteers… that recruitment process is difficult.”

While she has found one 31-year-old to fill in a position, “you can’t recruit someone at that age and not say there’s any money involved, it just doesn’t work that way nowadays. People need that support.”

The ESS director also told council the job takes an enormous amount of personal time and resources – she puts in about 12 hours weekly in volunteer time co-ordinating services, and uses her own laptop and other supplies to get the job done.

Gustafson says a webinar held locally last November revealed a need for better co-ordination and understanding about agencies’ roles during an emergency. She’d like to see a task force formed to clear up those misunderstandings sooner than later.

“I see there’s a lack of our working together with all agencies,” she told council. “…I want to get those discussions now, in time, so that when something does happen, we’ve already built those relationships with people and know who does what.”

Gustafson also plans to hold an open house in early May to promote personal emergency preparedness, this time focusing on seniors. She asked council for permission to use the Seniors’ Hall for the event.

Council received Gustafson’s presentation as information and will consider the request at its next meeting.

John Boivin is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for the Valley Voice.

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