“It’s like running a second city”- Mayor Lyn Hall
Prince George, B.C. – When Prince George was called upon to be the evacuation centre for fire fleeing residents of the Cariboo, the scope of that request and responsibility was huge.
“It’s like running a second City” says Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall. “We’re running the City of Prince George, and now we’re running a second city for all the folks who have come from the Cariboo”
“You don’t think about it right away” says Mayor Hall, “when you start to realize the services that will be required and it’s things you didn’t anticipate. So all of a sudden we realize we need health services in a central location, transportation, shuttles from CNC to UNBC, shuttles to different locations, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, First Nations. One of our important pieces, was to have the Lheidli T’enneh there, that was very important because some of the evacuees wanted that particular connection with the Lheidli T’enneh, so that First Nation’s component was big. You just don’t realize on a Saturday morning when you’re in a level 3 emergency, you don’t realize all you have to do.”
Providing food and lodging for the evacuees was just the beginning says the Mayor, ” and it just grows from there, how do you support these people from a transportation perspective, how do you make sure that you’re getting out to the RVers and making sure that they can use the sani- dump, a mobile sani- dump, garbage collection, we’re running a second City.”
Mayor Hall says while there will be a briefing and evaluation of how Prince George handled the situation once the evacuees return home, he says there was one issue that needs changed “The evacuees have been unbelievable, but the issues that was talked about, not so much the initial registration because it takes time to get all the information from them, but it was about the subsequent process in order to give them more vouchers, they said ‘boy it should would be nice if this was more streamlined and we could do it electronically’.” The reissuing of the vouchers meant evacuees had to line up and go through the process again. “That piece ( reissuing system) is one we would like to see changed, that’s probably the major one, it would loosen up the need to have resources focused for such a long period of time, and a lot of resources, in some cases, a hundred, or 120 people (needed) to get (evacuees) through that registration.” process .”
Mayor Hall says there will be something organized for all the volunteers who gave their time to assist the City in this emergency situation “Absolutely, As you see, perhaps a light at the end of the tunnel, you start thinking about how do we thank them, how do we thank the businesses , how do we thank the individuals who have come forward? Absolutely we are going to do something.”