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Evacuated Joe Rich residents say they were prepared

Kelowna - People seem to know what they’re doing in these situations, says emergency services worker

Hailey Lambert was at home baking when sirens interrupted the calm of the day.

At first she thought Emergency Services were responding to a car crash, but when sirens kept getting louder she went outside and saw a small amount of smoke rising above her neighbourhood.

“Within an hour it was a volcano, almost,” she said.

Using the experience from four previous wildfire evacuations, she and her family packed up their irreplaceable belongings and family pets and headed out.

She wasn’t the only one ready for the evacuation.

Ryan Blaney has been forced from his home for wildfires twice already — one in 2003 and one two years earlier —and when he heard about Thursday’s fire he knew just what to do.

“As soon as I got off work, I bombed up (home) as fast as I could,” he said. “I know how it is … how fast they get the roadblocks up.”

Friends followed and helped him get his stuff, as was the case for many of the people in the close-knit neighbourhood.

“ My next-door neighbour has seven horses,” he said. “Her husband works up north and before I could offer to help she had five friends with trucks and horse trailers there. They were prepared more so than they would have been two years ago.”

Emergency support services worker for the Okanagan, Catherine Williams said people seem to know what they’re doing in these situations.

“I don’t know whether it’s that Kelowna has had a lot of these, but I’m always surprised by the resiliency of the Okanagan,” she said. “It’s hard on some people but the majority are taking it on their stride.”

By Tuesday morning, there were 260 families being helped at the Emergency Services by 30 volunteers.

“A lot of people are going to friends and family, and they didn’t have warning,” she said.

Those people, she said, need toothbrushes and toothpaste and underwear and they’re getting vouchers for clothing.