A veil of smoke obscured the interior B.C. mountain range on Fatima Hasanali’s recent trip to Kelowna, a constant reminder of the devastation she was there to help those who fled overcome.

“I was naive going in,” the Alberta Red Cross media co-ordinator said, adding the reality of the ravaging wildfire hit her upon arriving in the Okanogan region.

Thousands of B.C. residents are picking up the pieces after hundreds of wildfires sent them from their homes, prompting Red Cross volunteers to rush to the region for relief.

In addition to providing cots and blankets to local emergency shelters, volunteers are linking displaced and fire-affected evacuees with cleanup kits, food, clothing and counselling.

“You don’t expect something like this to happen to you, and then you experience emotions like fear, hopelessness and every other negative emotion that comes through when dealing with a fire,” Hasanali said.

Local Red Cross volunteers will stay in the area and staff a recovery centre in Lillooet until the majority of affected residents are back on their feet, she added.

A four-day mandatory evacuation of the area was lifted last week.

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