Smoke fills the sky as a wildfire burns in Ashcroft, B.C., on Friday, July 7. Since then, the wildfire in the area has grown to nearly 4,000 hectares in size. Twitter, @TheoFaber

Penticton man sets up Facebook group to help fire evacuees

Members offering a place to stay, food, clothing and any other needs of those displaced by wildfires

A Penticton man is heading up a grassroots effort to provide aid for those displaced by the seemingly endless list of wildfires ravaging the province.

Initially set up for the Ashcroft and Cache Creek evacuees, Allan Love said the Facebook group is there to provide help to anybody who may have lost a home or who otherwise needs help due to the fires.

“I’m an old forestry firefighter, myself, so I know the hardships that the people will be going through, as I’ve been on the fighting end of it,” Love said. “I know how much it could actually suck. I just want to give anyone who needs help as much help as I can possibly give them whether it’s through myself or through proxy.”

Related: Evacuation alert expanded for Princeton fire

If Love isn’t able to provide the help that an evacuee is needing, he said hopefully one of the 112 — and growing — members of his group will be able to.

Love said clothing, food and shelter make up the bulk of what the group is offering, with numerous members offering to make room in their homes for the evacuees.

“I, myself, am even willing to put up a couple of people inside my house, I can put up a couple more people inside my camper, and I‘ve got lots of room for RVs or tents for camping,” Love said. “I can help out even some of them, myself, with food and whatnot, too.”

Members in the group span across the province, with Facebook profiles showing up from the coast, up to Lillooet and as far out as Calgary.

That, Love said, will help to spread group’s ability to provide help wherever it’s needed, especially with most of the fires in the Cariboo region — far away from Love’s home in Penticton.

Related: Ashcroft fire grows to 3,900 hectares

But the giving spirit hasn’t ended with those with space to spare — Love pointed to one man who offered to help out however he can, despite himself being an evacuee.

“It’s all been pretty positive and pretty good,” he said.

Love said he’s offered a helping hand to others in need before, but never anything on this scale.

“I’m winging it, doing what I can,” he said. “It sucks to be down, so I may as well do what I can to make their life better and easier.”

Understanding that many of the evacuees don’t necessarily have access to Facebook, he said he has been reaching out to evacuation centres to try to get the word across that way that the province’s community members are offering their help.

“I’m waiting for phone calls back from the Kamloops and the actual Lillooet evac centre,” he said, adding that he’s keeping an eye out for other evacuation centres to reach out to.

Related: Gustafsen wildfire now at 3,200 hectares

Love is a former forestry firefighter himself, which he said has provided him with a bit more empathy for those affected by wildfires, having seen the destruction they can bring.

Clearly others are feeling the empathy, too, with the group reaching over 100 members in just four or five hours.

“It’s exploding,” Love said. “I’m publishing it in every Facebook group. I’ve put it in every group I could find to join for 100 Mile and Cache Creek and Ashcroft.”

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