A message from Executive Director Michael Shapcott, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023
Sunday was a day of rest and a chance to settle back into their homes for most Sorrento Centre staff after eight days under evacuation from the out-of-control Bush Creek East wildfire.
The wildfire, triggered by lightning during a hot and dry spell, started as two fires on the east and west sides of Adams Lake in the North Shuswap. It merged into a “wildfire of note” (which threatens people and property) and moved quickly east through the North Shuswap before jumping south across Squilax, up Turtle Valley and through parts of Sorrento.
The map shows the perimeter of the fire (a solid red line), as well as the yellow areas that are currently under evacuation alert (including Sorrento) and the red areas under evacuation order (Sorrento was under an evacuation order for eight days). The two blue dots show our main campus and farm.
Our staff were able to return on Saturday morning and, after a brief inspection of the main campus and farm, the first priority was to ensure everyone’s homes were safe and healthy. The power outage during the early days of the evacuation meant that a lot of food was spoiled and unhealthy. Some staff were able to shelter in place at their homes as they live outside the area designated for evacuation. Soot and ashes covered everything as smoke continues to choke the air.
Most staff are still under evacuation alert, which means they need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice if the volatile fire approaches. On Sunday evening, the fire was burning to the south and west of the Centre.
On Sunday, BC Wildfire reported: “The warming and drying trend will continue through tomorrow. Fire behaviour is expected to increase through this upward trend. A change in weather is forecast for Tuesday which will bring cooler temperatures, a possible increase in wind and a chance of precipitation. After Tuesday, temperatures will remain cooler and closer to seasonal. Fire behaviour is expected to increase with the increasing temperatures. Active fire will be more visible and additional smoke will be produced.”
On Monday, many staff will be returning to the Centre and the farm to start the detailed assessment of the impact of the smoke, the power outage and the nearby fire. We know there is produce in the fields ready to be harvested. We will offer fresh produce to the food bank and may be able to offer some into the community to our neighbours. Produce that is spoiled will be offered to our neighbours with animals for feed.
Until we know the extent of the damages, we will not be able to estimate when the Centre might be able to re-open. We will not open until it is safe to do so, and the evacuation alert has been lifted.
Two weeks of NimbleFingers bluegrass music workshops and festival were scheduled to start on Aug. 20 and have been cancelled. A more compact version of the event is being staged in Agassiz. The last day of the BC Swing music camp was also the first day of evacuation, and almost 200 guests, plus staff and others, were safely evacuated.
On this Sunday evening, we pause to remember all our neighbours in the North and South Shuswap whose lives have been sorely disrupted by this wildfire. We are grateful that there is no reported loss of life. Even though the fire remains active, early reports of damages are beginning to emerge: more than 130 homes and buildings destroyed.
We think especially of our neighbours at Skwlāx te Secwepemcúl̓ecw (formerly known as the Little Shuswap Indian Band), as well as those in Adams Lake, Scotch Creek, Lee Creek, Celista, Magna Bay, Turtle Valley and Sorrento and other places.
There is plenty of work ahead as we continue through the disaster relief phase and into recovery and re-building. At the Sorrento Centre, we are committed to love our neighbours in many practical ways in the coming days.
As we look ahead to our first morning back at our Centre, we hold up the words of the Prayer for Courage from our friends at Corrymeela, the longest-serving centre for reconciliation in the north of Ireland:
Courage comes from the heart
and we are always welcomed by God,
the Croi (heart) of all being.
We bear witness to our faith, knowing that we are called
to live lives of courage, love and reconciliation
in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of each day.
We bear witness, too, to our failures and our complicity
in the fractures of our world.
May we be courageous today.
May we learn today.
May we love today.