The gesture might be so big that it won’t be needed, but Chilliwack sure did come up big on Thursday.
After record-breaking high heat led to wildfires that destroyed the village of Lytton in minutes, Chilliwack residents stepped up with donations of water, food, pet supplies, toiletries, kids’ toys, and much more.
That’s because it was all very familiar for truck driver Gord VanLaerhoven who rolled up with his semi just after 2 p.m. at the Cottonwood Mall parking lot to a scene of dozens of people and their vehicles ready to load up to help fire victims.
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You see it was just over five years ago when VanLaerhoven came up with the idea to do the same thing after 88,000 victims were evacuated from the Fort McMurray wildfires.
As soon as arrived VanLaerhoven on Canada Day, pickup trucks backed up, folks grabbed cases of water, bags of toothbrushes, boxes of diapers, and the loading began.
Pauline Whipple was involved in the Fort Mac effort back in 2016 as well, and she said she saw what happened in Lytton, put out one call and the donation effort spread, well, like wildfire.
“Chilliwack is amazing,” she said in the parking lot. “It’s got a good heart.”
VanLaerhoven said his plan was to drive up to Merritt Friday morning to deliver the goods where most people who fled Lytton are located. Organizers said another semi was scheduled to arrive on Thursday evening as well to be loaded up.
In the end, however, the physical goods might not be needed as some calls went out on social media to not send anymore supplies up north.
Whether or not VanLaerhoven will bring his load up Friday was unclear as of Thursday night, but regardless, the charitable effort was seen as remarkable by all who showed up.
For residents who escaped Lytton to communities in the north and down in the Lower Mainland are located, the days ahead will be uncertain.
Some in Chilliwack in the equestrian community are organizing to head up with horse trailers to try to help find and rescue animals. Other efforts to help Lytton residents are also in the works.
The Lytton BC fire family reunification line through Canadian Red Cross is 1-800-863-6582. Anyone looking for loved ones from the Lytton Fire can call this number for information.
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