Coping with influx of evacuees busy job, mayor says

It's been a hectic, busy and emotional 10 days so far for Mayor Lyn Hall, since Cariboo wildfire evacuees began pouring north.

"That pretty much sums it up," Hall said.

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"It's been non-stop and an emotional roller coaster ride."

With more than 8,000 evacuees in Prince as of Monday, it's both challenging and rewarding.

"Yes, it has been hectic because I do still have my day to day job but I'm also on various provincial and operational teams," he said. "And it's also a very emotional time too. It's humbling to meet with the evacuees, to hear their struggles, stories and concerns."

For Hall, the main focus has been and continues to be awareness.

"I want to make sure of everything that is happening and to be fully aware, knowledgeable and engaged about the services we provide from an emergency operational perspective," Hall said.

"I want to get the message across that we are here to welcome all evacuees with open arms.

"And we want them to know we are here for them, we are ready to help them and provide for their every need. We are here to take care of them."

Prince George has also been here for the non-human evacuees.

As of Monday, the many animals who have taken refuge in a number of areas in Prince, including the Agriplex, includes 178 horses, 36 chickens, five goats, two sheep and one pot-bellied pig.

According to the city's website, Interior Warehousing on River Road is continuing to receive and distribute supplies to assist evacuees, be they animal or human.

Thousands of cots were received from the national emergency stockpile in Edmonton and the Canadian Red Cross has provided toiletries of all sorts.

And in terms of any shortages from gas to food, Hall says there is no reason for worry.

So far, the city has distributed almost $800,000 in grocery vouchers.

"We still have so much work in terms of evacuee preparation for 8,000 guests. We need to provide for them the necessary services they need. It's a huge challenge and a big job," Hall said. "Whether it's food vouchers or helping find accommodation, this is the focus. It is to register these people and to help them get over the hurdle of arriving to a new city for the first time and to do this as quickly as possible."

For Hall, such a positive response would not have been possible if it wasn't for the many volunteers who have offered to lend a hand.

"I can't say enough about the over 1,600 volunteers who are helping out. I knew we would have had a flood of them. I'm not surprised. It's like we are trying to operate a small city, so help from volunteers, this is integral," Hall said.

For Hall, listening to stories form evacuees is inspiring.

"For me, talking with the evacuees, to hear their struggles, it's humbling especially when they say thank you for all we have done," Hall said.

"And for me, getting the word out about Prince George is so important. I am a strong advocate of Prince George and to talk about our city, it gives me a great sense of pride. We've stepped up to the plate and are ready to welcome more evacuees. I'm so proud of our community."

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