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Vernon hotel says it is accepting evacuees after woman says she was turned away

No ID, no hotel for evacuee

UPDATE: 3:55 p.m.

The manager of Vernon's Riviera Plaza and Conference Centre says he just wants to preserve his good reputation after a wildfire evacuee set off a tempest that went all the way to the provincial minister of public safety over emergency accommodations.

"We have done everything to help people," Anmol Sharma said Friday afternoon.

He said his staff have been fielding angry, threatening phone calls, but that they have done nothing wrong.

"My staff don't deserve to be treated that way," he said. "We have been accepting evacuees. In this case, our staff was yelled at and sworn at. They are just doing their job."

The owner of the hotel does not deny turning away Toni Harris – but he says it was because she did not have proper identification or a credit card.

Chad Kumar tells Castanet the hotel is indeed accepting evacuees from the White Rock Lake wildfire.

However, he says Harris, who posted a video to social media saying her government-issued accommodation voucher was not accepted, did not present the necessary identification.

"If they don't have photo ID or a credit card, we can't take them," Kumar said Friday afternoon.

"We are accepting evacuees."

He said ID is required "for the safety of all hotel guests and staff," and he added that a credit card is needed even if the room is being paid for by the province.

That is in case of incidentals, other room charges, or damage.

Sharma said ID is a "basic requirement in every hotel wherever you go."

"We are doing our best to help," he said, noting management was taken by surprise to learn they were considered an emergency supplier to the City of Vernon.

Sharma explained the previous owner of the Village Green Hotel was registered as an emergency supplier of accommodation, but that under new ownership and a new name, they were completely unaware of the arrangement.

They have since agreed to continue providing emergency shelter and Sharma noted the hotel is giving the government a 40% discount on evacuee accommodation.

He said, so far, the hotel has taken in about 20 evacuees.


ORIGINAL: 2 p.m.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth says it's "unacceptable" for hotels to not accept evacuee accommodation vouchers as residents flee threatening wildfires.

Farnworth made the comment when questioned by Castanet News about a woman who said she was refused accommodation at a Vernon hotel this week.

"It is just unacceptable for a hotel with a voucher issued by BC Wildfire Service to not honour and accept it," Farnworth responded during Friday's provincial wildfire press conference.

Farnworth said the province would "get on top of that right away" once given the details.

OKIB member Toni Harris says she was given a seven-day accommodation voucher for the Riviera Plaza and Conference Centre from Emergency Management BC after evacuating her home on the Westside Road reserve.

A large swath of the reserve west of Vernon is under evacuation order or alert after the White Rock Lake wildfire roared to life between Vernon and Kamloops. On Thursday, the fire destroyed much of Monte Lake, to the north of the reserve.

"I was given a voucher for seven days, and they will not honour it," Harris claimed in a Facebook video that has now been shared hundreds of times.

Calls to the hotel had every line go directly to voicemail, and the manager's mailbox was full.

Castanet has asked for a response from the organization.

During his press conference, Farnworth took a serious tone in response to the allegation and said the province is using a mix of hotels, group lodging and working with communities to identify gyms, rec centres and other spaces to house the growing number of fire evacuees across the province.

"For most, their preference is to go somewhere they know and to stay with family and friends, and we strongly encourage that as well," he added.

Harris says she borrowed money to pay for one night at the hotel, Thursday.

And today, she says another woman from Falkland, who herself was evacuated, didn't need her room tonight and has given it to Harris.



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