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BC wildfire evacuee using his experience to help others

By Joanne Abshire

“I’ve dealt with people who are very agitated.  Of course, they’re upset.  They’re out of their house.  They don’t know if their house has burned down,” says Canadian Red Cross volunteer David Wickingstad who is currently fielding calls at the Kamloops HELP office.

Canadian Red Cross volunteer David Wickingstad who is currently fielding calls at the Kamloops HELP officeWickingstad who has a calm demeanor and a deep, authoritative sounding  ‘voice for radio’ decided to help out because he knows what it’s like to be an evacuee. His community of 108 Mile in the Cariboo Region of BC has been under an evacuation order since Friday, July 7th due to the Gustafsen wildfire.

He and his wife were heading home from a camping trip in the Shuswap, an area northeast of Kamloops, when his son called to let him know it wasn’t safe to come home.  They then headed to Kamloops to stay with family there.   After going through the evacuee registration process with local authorities and the Canadian Red Cross, he wanted to use his personal experience to support others.

“I normally work at the HELP office in 100 Mile, so I thought ‘Well, what am I going to do, sit around and do nothing?  I knew there would be phone calls, and people that would need help, and I thought I’d go pitch in.”

Having gone through the experience, he believes he’s able to understand what people are going through and how it can be stressful, frustrating and overwhelming at times.

 “At some point, with some people I’m like ‘Alright I know what you’re talking about.  I’m an evacuee as well.’ And they completely change their approach.  It almost takes all of the heat out of the situation,” explains Wickingstad.

He realizes there could be other things he could be doing with his time, but he says that wouldn’t feel right.   

“Kamloops has been great.  All these people putting in long days.  I know the Red Cross workers at the emergency centre are putting in 12 hour plus days.  It’s hot there and they’re trying to help people.  I think of the fire fighters, the cops, and the service workers, why wouldn’t you want to help?” adds Wickingstad.

Canadians who wish to help those in need can donate to the British Columbia Fires Appeal.
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