BC Wildfires: How You Can Help
British Columbia has declared a state of emergency as communities across the province deal with wildfires. At Travelzoo's offices in Vancouver and Toronto, our thoughts are with those affected by the fires. Here's how to help, and what you need to know about travelling to this beautiful, resilient province.
How you can help
- Donating money (rather than used goods, which pose logistical challenges for charities) is the best way to contribute to relief efforts and long-term recovery. The Canadian Red Cross has set up a BC Fires Appeal, and until Oct. 12, 2018, the BC government will be matching donations made by provincial residents to the Canadian Red Cross, up to a total of $20 million. Contributions to the BC Fires Appeal can be made online or by calling 1-800-418-1111.
- The BC SPCA has also stepped forward, establishing animal evacuation centres and providing pet food and supplies to evacuees. The organization's website offers comprehensive information on keeping pets safe during an evacuation or air quality crisis. Donations to support its efforts can be made online or by calling 1-800-665-1868.
- Other groups accepting donations for wildfire relief efforts include CanadaHelps, Food Banks BC, the Salvation Army and the United Way.
You can help simply by visiting BC, now or in the coming months. "British Columbia is a very large and diverse province, and there are areas that are not impacted and are open for business," says Kristen Learned, a spokesperson for Destination British Columbia. The tourism industry is crucial to the province, employing about 127,500 people and contributing an estimated $15 billion to the economy each year, according to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce. Even affected areas should be ready to welcome travellers with open arms this fall or winter. "The changing seasons bring many new options for visitors," Learned tells Travelzoo. "We are lucky to have a destination that offers phenomenal value and experiences year-round."
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Visiting BC soon? Here's what you need to know
Vancouver and much of Vancouver Island (including Tofino) are operating as normal, although skies can be hazy. (This Air Quality Health Index has the latest information on specific communities.) There are plenty of resources to help you steer clear of affected areas. "Check DriveBC for information on road closures, the BC Wildfire Service for an interactive map, Emergency Info BC for alerts, and BC Parks for closures," says Learned. "Because conditions can change so quickly, we also encourage people to follow social media accounts for the latest news."
If you do need to change your plans, many travel providers will try to accommodate you. WestJet is offering 15-25% off fares for flights from or within B.C., and implementing flexible change and cancel rules for travellers. (Scroll down on their Advisories page to find details.) Air Canada is also offering free itinerary changes for certain B.C. flights, as well as a 25% discount on travel out of communities covered by the state of emergency.
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