The Salvation Army has acquired a unique vehicle designed to serve as a community response unit in case of a community disaster or emergency event.
It’s essentially a canteen truck that will be used to aid emergency responders, for example during forest fires, for search and rescue operators, or when the fire department is on a call that requires their presence on scene for an extended period of time.
They are equipped with a stove, fridge, microwaves, coffee makers, and when fully staffed, it can serve 300 meals an hour.
The staff will be provided by Salvation Army volunteers, and training programs will be implemented starting in January to prepare individuals who wish to volunteer on the unit.
The unit will be stationed here in Cranbrook, but will be available for the entire Kootenay region.
“It will be for any sort of emergency from Highway 1 south to the U.S. border, from the Alberta border over as far as Grand Forks,” explained Major Ginny Kristenson, the local officer with the Salvation Army in Cranbrook. “So we’ll be looking at having teams from Trail and Nelson and Fernie come in for training as well.
“Normally, if it’s going to be a forest fire where we’re going to be set up for several days, two or three volunteers in the vehicle and then another two or three sort of outside helping with tables and whatnot. If it’s for a fire in town where it’s serving the fire department, we may only have two or three volunteers at a time on it. But then we also rotate them with a shift because we don’t want to burn out our volunteers either.”
Getting the vehicle on Friday is the culmination of a process years in the making. Initially, Kristensen began inquiring after getting one of these units when she was with the Salvation Army back in 2003. Kristensen worked here from 2003 to 2007, before Major Green came in.
“The East Kootenays doesn’t have a lot of really serious forest fires in this region,” Kristensen said, “so areas that have had more fires have gotten the vehicles ahead of us. But it’s been a long process because all of the vehicles are donated, and by the time they’re fully equipped you’re looking at probably $150,000 to $200,000 per vehicle.
This particular vehicle comes all equipped and set up from Kelowna. The Salvation Army there recently got a new one, which is a freightliner, helping them to navigate around the central region of B.C.
“So I started the process to get the vehicle and then I get it,” she said with a laugh. “Kirk is not so impressed with that because he worked very hard in the intervening 12 years to get it here as well.”
Kristensen said they will be taking the unit down to Fernie where Green is now stationed, for their Santa Claus parade, where they can serve coffee and hot chocolate from it.
“We don’t want it just sitting in a warehouse or someplace for the winter and not being used other than when there’s say a forest fire, we want to make sure we’re using the vehicle in a very proactive, community-minded way.”
Kristensen said everyone at the Salvation Army is thrilled to finally see this come to fruition, after hearing about it for so long.
The keys to the vehicle were handed over at 4 p.m. from divisional emergency disaster services director John McEwan from Abbotsford who brought it up to Cranbrook to pass it over to Kristensen
They are still in the process of finding a place to keep it warm and safe over the winter months, so if you or someone you know has some warehouse space, give the Salvation Army a call.