Paul French, First Vice President of United Steelworkers Local 2017, has some advice for workers affected by the wildfires.

United Steelworkers Local 1-2017 First Vice President Paul French

“If you’re off work right now and it’s because of the fires, apply for EI – unemployment insurance. West Fraser is the plywood plant and I believe the sawmill is allowing employees to come in if they’re in town they’ll provide work for him.”

While processing EI claims can take a while, French says there are ways of speeding up the process.

“There’s a number you can put on the bottom of your EI form or when you phone into refer to that number. That will actually fast track your EI.”

French says the number is 5986 0120 1707 1017. For more information on how to apply, click here.

And there is other support coming for those out of work.

“I was informed of that…by both mill managers [Tolko and West Fraser]. They said that they are going to come up with $1,000 per employee for disaster relief. One thing I will say is the companies have been extremely good with anyone that contacts the mill and lets them know they’ve either been evacuated or left down for whatever reason. It’s not an issue, they’re off work. The companies have been really good in this situation.”

French says the steelworkers union has been taking other steps to get relief for workers and residents alike.

“We have been lobbying government to say, look we’ve got a disaster here. We’ve got our five mills down, our mine’s in trouble, all our small businesses in town are in trouble. We need help because this doesn’t affect just our unionized sites – this is everyone in Williams Lake that’s affected.”

French has been in Prince George since Thursday. He says he came up on business last week and unaware of the fire situation until he tried to head home.

You can listen to the to the full interview below:

With files from Rebecca Dyok, MyCaribooNow.com