Jeni Arbott (left), Stacey Hurford and Vienna Mracovcic owner and employees at Play Grounds Coffeehouse have been “treating evacuees to lunch.” Max Winkelman photo.

Prince George people and businesses welcome evacuees with open arms

Locals have personal experience with fire

Many people across the province have stepped up to help people affected by the wildfire. Today, Save-on-Foods donated $8,000 worth of food to Forest Grove and Lac la Hache and a group come together for a prescription refill in Lone Butte.

However, it’s not just those in the affected zones who have gone the extra mile. In Prince George, restaurants, clothing stores and others are offering substantial discounts to evacuees; people have gone up to strangers in the street to offer them a place to stay; and some have even offered to pay for grocery bills.

Jeni Arnott says she knows exactly what people are going through as she was very close to losing her family home 14 years ago in a fire just outside of Faulkland.

When the fires in Kelowna and Faulkland started, “we raced to my dad to help him in anyway that we could and he wouldn’t leave the house. He was on the roof spraying the shingles making sure because they were shakes and wanted to make sure that no sparks landed on them and just around the bend someone did lose their home,” she says. “It was surreal.”

Arnott immediately opened her business, Play Grounds Coffeehouse, up on Sunday morning when she heard about the evacuations.

“For me I can understand the dilemma of leaving everything behind to just go and basically hope that nothing happens. That for me, I had young children, I do have young children now, but I had young children even 14 years ago and they were upset and it was grandpa’s home,” she says. “I just felt the need, for any of you who wanted to come to feel like there was a place you can just relax and have piece of mind.”

Arnott was clearly emotional.

“It’s about family and community,” she says. “As far as B.C. is concerned, it’s a small place … we need to have each other’s backs and I hope that more people do that. Whatever they can do to help in the way that they can support. We can’t go down. We don’t have the time to go down and volunteer, so this is our way of helping out.”

Arnott says they’ve had a lot of support from the community including Westwood Church, who brought in free socks, people dropping off water and juice bottles for kids as well as other local business helping out.

Play Grounds Coffeehouse is offering evacuees free coffee, soup or crêpes as well as a place for little kids to come play.

“We want anybody who’s coming from the Cariboo area to come and enjoy and have their young children play and then we’ll treat them to lunch.”

Arnott says they’ve had a lot of people come in and that it’s been very emotional.