BC Forest Fires Affecting University Students

Many of you will have heard that British Columbia is burning down. For those of us not in an area with a forest fire, that statement might be hyperbole. But for those near a fire, it is reality. Check out this article with an interactive map showing all the fires currently burning.

The fires are bad. People’s homes are at risk. Evacuations are currently happening. It’s a daily news event. But what is perhaps being missed is that many of our students are being affected by the fires. Some have been evacuated from their homes. I’m aware of a few students who had to leave their homes in Williams Lake for several weeks. The stress of wondering if your home is at risk of burning while you are away must be very high!

In addition to the evacuations and the stress, many students are unable to work due to these fires. When entire towns and cities are evacuated, students who are working in those towns are out of a job. And when the back country and forest service roads are closed, tree planters and students working in logging, lumber mills, and other good-paying forestry related jobs are without jobs. I paid for much of my college studies by tree planting each summer. The work was hard and the pay was great. We were shut down once by extreme heat and dryness, but thankfully never by a forest fire.

No job = a harder time paying for tuition and fees. Some students have told us they don’t think they’ll be able to return in September because they can’t work this summer due to the forest fires. Some are affected because their business or their parents’ business had to shut down. This news article explains a bit more about how the fires have affected businesses, but it isn’t only the business owners who are affected. Long-term and summer student employees are also directly affected.

As a result, we are reaching out to students and inviting them to contact our Financial Aid department if they need help. I’m sure much compassion, empathy and money will be needed as we help students find ways to be able to continue their studies this coming September. We often think of the direct impacts that disasters have on people and communities. We don’t often realize the far-reaching effects that disasters like forest fires can have on people’s futures. If you are donating to the forest fire relief, please also consider ways you can assist a student who’s been unable to work because of these same fires.

If your career is in post-secondary, please help share the plight of students affected by the fires and let’s mobilize assistance!

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