All of the evacuees in lodging, including tents, at the College of New Caledonia were moved to UNBC yesterday, joining other evacuees already at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre. In total about 65 people, plus about 30 tents, were moved to the Northern Sport Centre. The Emergency Reception Centre will remain at CNC, providing evacuee registration, the renewal of referrals, and government services.
Even though the total number of evacuees who have registered to receive group lodging to date is just over 700, the total number of people receiving accommodation at the Northern Sport Centre will now be about 180, including the arrivals today from CNC.
Those requiring transportation are being provided access to shuttle buses. The city is also providing evacuees with transportation materials such as boxes and crates for their belongings and detailed instructions about the move.
The consolidation of the evacuees began early this morning and is anticipated to be completed today.
Much of the focus of the evacuation effort has been on the College of New Caledonia. Rightfully so as 10,000 evacuees have now registered at the college and received various services there, including lodging. But with this emergency now well into its third week, thousands of people have set up camp – sometimes literally – all over Prince George.
When the fires first began, Wendy South of the West Lake Campground and RV Park provided spaces for evacuees for free and even took out radio ads to make people aware that her campground had room for them. Since then, the population at the 24-site campground has grown.
In fact, the location has become a “home away from home” to about 60 people from an Aboriginal community north of Williams Lake. According to Wendy, the outpouring of support for the evacuees from the community, both in the West Lake and Prince George area, has been overwhelming.
“When evacuees arrived in tents, three trailers and two motor homes were donated. The owners even drop by frequently to replenish propane, diesel, and water. And then on Saturday, a band, 12 Gauge Rock’n Country, showed up to perform and entertain,” says South. “That’s not all. Residents arrive every day with food and other donations, and have even hosted community barbecues at the campground.”
That sense of community at the campground is obvious, with everybody knowing everyone else on a first-name basis. “This has been a fantastic experience for me,” says Wendy. “I know I’ve made friendships in the past few weeks that will stay with me for a very long time.”
Evacuees are eligible to receive financial assistance for lodging at private campgrounds. On Friday, the City worked with evacuees staying in RVs on City property to consolidate them at the parking lot between the Aquatic Centre and the Exhibition Park soccer fields along George Paul Lane. This move was made to better provide evacuees with services, such as water and sewer.