Wildfire Update (23 08 21)

A message from Executive Director Michael Shapcott, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023

At 7:45 pm on Monday, it rained in Salmon Arm – where many of the staff of the Sorrento Centre, along with many of our neighbours, have taken refuge after being evacuated due to a volatile wildfire that continues to threaten our main campus and farm. Not much rain, but it lifted our hearts and was an answer to prayer. More rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Here is the official word from BC Wildfire at 8 pm on Monday: “This evening, we may receive 2-3 mm of precipitation. This will reduce fire behaviour in the short term, allowing crews to work on direct suppression closer to the fire perimeter. Based on the current forecast, fire behaviour is expected to decrease after today.”

Strong winds from Tropical Storm Hilary are expected and, if they blow in a favourable direction (north and west), this could also turn the fire on itself, another positive development. The recent forecast calls for easterly winds – another encouraging sign.

We received a first-hand report today that our farm (including the ED’s log cabin) has not been affected by flames, even though it is less than half a kilometre from the leading edge of the massive wildfire. Another report, not confirmed, says our main campus – which is about 2k from the main fire – is also not affected.

The large and dynamic wildfire threatening Sorrento triggered the evacuation of our Centre and the wider community on Friday and Saturday. A BC Wildfire crew, including 20 Brazilian firefighters, are working on the ground. Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are not able to fly due to heavy smoke limiting visibility. There is a structure protection team in Sorrento.

We evacuated our beloved Centre on Friday. All guests, including a family evacuated from the North Shuswap, plus many of our staff team, are safe for now in Salmon Arm, Enderby and Vernon. Other staff safely sheltered at their homes.

For the first time since the evacuation, most of our staff team gathered at First Community in Salmon Arm on Monday to share experiences, identify needs and issues and support each other. Local emergency services are providing financial and other assistance to wildfire evacuees, and our Centre is committed to address unmet needs.

The situation remains extremely risky and dynamic. We will continue to offer daily updates. It is a challenging time for our beloved Centre. We are grateful that our guests, staff and neighbours are safe for now. We are thankful for BC Wildfire firefighters doing their best. We are thankful for emergency services staff and many volunteers supporting evacuees. The messages of love and support from our friends near and far lift our hearts. All prayers ascending to the divine are a comfort to all of us.

Here is a prayer from our Anglican friends in Australia:

O God, the earth is thirsty for rain and we wait for you
to refresh the land and all its creatures, the rivers and lakes,
the crops and gardens. Send abundant rain, we pray,
and teach us to be better stewards of all the blessings
you provide, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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