Princeton’s mayor has literally called in the troops.
Mayor Spencer Coyne is expecting to find out Monday whether his request for a contingent of the Canadian Armed Forces members who are already in B.C, to assist with the recovery effort, will be deployed to Princeton.
“I want manpower. My biggest thing right now is the manpower we have,” Coyne said.
“If you look around this community, it’s amazing how many people are moving around trying to try to get everything done… Everybody’s working as fast as they can, because we’re trying to get this done before Dec. 1 so we don’t freeze up.”
When temperatures drop to winter lows of -20 C there will be an even worse mess, he said.
“If we can get the manpower, then we can get stuff out and we can get people working on cleaning up their homes. And hopefully, we can get back to some sort of normalcy soon,” he said.
All around the embattled town, there are signs of that effort getting underway as people’s possessions, turned junk from floodwater, is placed on the street so homes can be made livable again.
“I know we’re still in an emergency situation, but we have to think long-term, and the long term is freeze-up,” he said, adding he wants the military to come in and move disposed items before they’re frozen in place.
Coyne has been co-ordinating with various agencies to bring relief to struggling residents, separate from assistance provided by the Emergency Operations Centre. He’s worried volunteers who have done a Herculean amount of work are going to burn out.
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“We’ve been into this a week plus one day,” he said.
“We can only depend on volunteers to keep it up at this rate for so long. People are going to have to go back to work … and school kids are hopefully going to go back to school. And we’re going to get the rest of the community back to some sort of normal. But we still have to help those people that need help.”
In the immediate aftermath of the flood, Coyne had asked people — even those with the best intentions — not to come to town until stability was reached. That’s no longer the case.
If anybody wants to volunteer, Coyne is welcoming them with open arms. Starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, continuing Wednesday, he said people are welcome to make their way to the town square, park behind the Visitor Centre and work will be found.
“We have people who have lost everything helping out. This is an all-hands-on-deck approach,” he said. “The whole community from top to bottom is working together to make this happen and I have to give the biggest shout-out to my community. Princeton is amazing. We’re resilient and we always come together in a time of need.”
It’s ideal in times such as these when there are so many issues to work out.
One of the top operational issues is running the waterline via firehoses. The pressure needed to service the upper parts of the north side of town isn’t there.
It means a large swath of the town with no water.
“We have directional drillers coming today to start that process,” he said. “So we were closing the bridge over the Tulameen again, which cuts off all those people.”
He’s also working on getting transit up and running, too.
On the bright side, B.C. Ambulance informed him they have two full-time ambulances in the community right now.
“(This is) a huge relief, since we only had one,” he said. “If we get a third one staffed, they’re looking at the possibility of putting it out at Manning Park … Then if anything happens, they’re not taking the car from the town, which is a huge relief as well.”
Over the past 24 hours the Canadian Armed Forces have been conducting damage assessments. By the end of the day, there will be 120 Canadian Forces members on the ground in hard-hit Abbotsford.
Thousands of others are on standby to deploy as needs are assessed and officials determine which roads can be used to move supporting crews into the province.
“Over the next 30 days, and possibly longer if needed, the Canadian Armed Forces will be there to help the people of British Columbia through this crisis,” Anand said.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck effort, and I know that our Canadian Armed Forces will rise to the challenge as they always do.”