Since the evacuation orders, many Prince George residents have opened their homes to those displaced.
One of those residents is Shelagh Stadel. Her acreage, just East of town, has been turned into a little village of sorts. Two weeks ago, she took in 17 evacuees from Williams Lake, along with their livestock and pets.
“They were asking for transport drivers to haul horses and stock out of the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds to Prince George. I got on their permitted list. I had 2 trucks, 2 trailers. I hired workers, and we ended up hauling day and night,” says Shelagh. “The animals sort of landed here, and then people came in with their animals.”
She took in 31 horses, 6 sheep, a bull, a pig and countless dogs and cats. Shelagh grew up in Williams Lake, so some of those staying at her acreage are relatives. However, most are acquaintances.
“We kept putting off coming, and when the time came to leave I told my daughter — she was nagging me 3 days prior– I finally said I am coming. Then the neighbour man came over, and I said ‘where are you going?’ He said he didn’t have a place. I said ‘well fall in with me’,” says Karel Stadel, Shelagh’s mother. “Every one of us, we are from the same neighbourhood pretty much. Though we didn’t socialize together, we knew of each other. So how can it not be good? We have breakfast and lunch in our own trailers and we meet for dinner every night.”
Shelagh has also opened her newly-acquired property in Prince George to evacuees. People from the community and the evacuees staying at her acreage helped furnish and prepare the home for a family of 7.
While she was prepared to help the evacuees on her own, Shelagh is grateful for all the community has done. “It’s really overwhelming. There’s been a lot of tears from the outpouring of love and support from Prince George and the community.”
Hay, dog and cat food was donated. Shampoo, laundry soap and various other items were dropped off at the acreage.
“In spite of being away from your own home, it was amazing the way Prince George welcomed us,” says Karel. “They treated us like royalty. We were taken care of and never had a moments worry. Food was supplied, and the Red Cross was here.”
Just as important as what Shelagh and the community has done for the evacuees is the emotional support they give each other. “In different times, there’s different people at risk of losing their house,” says Shelagh. “There’s a lot of bonding through that.”
Through it all, they have become close.
“We didn’t know everybody, we have now become close friends,” says Shelagh. “We are now talking about making this an annual get-together to share that comradery.”