Emergency Preparedness coordinator urges residents to pack now

by Andru McCracken

Canoe River broke its banks in 2014, flooding neighbouring properties including the Canoe River Campground / RMG FILE PHOTO

Anita De Dreu, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Regional District of Fraser Fort George is suggesting people prepare for both flood and fire including getting ready to leave for an extended period.

“We’re very concerned with the warm weather; we’re having record temperatures,” she said. “It’s 8 to 10 degrees warmer than normal.”

“Everyone loves to see the sun; it’s always exciting and fun; but it will increase the flood and fire risk.”

De Dreu said so far the rising water levels have been manageable.

“Everything is rising, of course,” said De Dreu. “Warm temperatures are causing melting at higher elevations and you can expect to see an increase in flow, but it sounds like the impacts will be felt further downstream.”

She said recent temperatures are 8 to 10 degrees warmer than usual.

With creek and riverbeds saturated from run-off, she said even small rain events can add to the risk of flooding.

But whether for fire or flood, De Dreu said there are some easy steps to be ready.

“Definitely have a grab-and-go bag ready,” she said. “If you can’t get back home, what sorts of things are important to have with you?”

She says it’s also important people have plans in place for their pets, said De Dreu.” 

Losing access to your home, and being unable to leave are two sizeable risks during a flood or fire event.

“You should have some food stocked for up to a week or so,” she said.

On a trip to the valley this weekend, De Dreu asked people to Fire Smart their homes.

She said wood piles, dry branches, and any potential fuel for fire should be well away from homes and buildings. She asked people to look in forgotten places for fuel sources ready to catch on fire from an ember.

“Fuel accumulates under sundecks and covered porches, there are needles and leaves that could start a fire that could impact your house,” she said. “Those are places that people don’t think about.”

Early this week the BC Wildfire Service “strongly recommended” that anyone who has conducted a Category 2 or Category 3 open burn within the last 12 months check the burn site to ensure that the fire was completely extinguished.” 

“Some of the wildfires that have occurred this season have been caused by burn piles that were not properly extinguished,” she said.” 

Fire Facts for the Prince George Fire Centre:

Anyone planning to do large-scale industrial burning or conduct a grass burn larger than 0.2 hectares (Category 3 fires) anywhere in the Prince George Fire Centre’s jurisdiction must obtain a burn registration number ahead of time (at no charge) by calling 1 888 797-1717. Before lighting any fire, residents should check with local government authorities for any other restrictions.

Anyone conducting an open burn must check local venting conditions before lighting any fire. If venting conditions in the area are rated “poor” or “fair”, Category 2 or 3, open burning is restricted. The venting index can be obtained by calling 1 888 281-2992 or by checking online: www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/epdpa/venting/venting.html

Anyone conducting an open burn must comply with the Wildfire Act and air quality control legislation. It is the responsibility of that individual to ensure that burning is done in a safe manner and in accordance with regulations and any current burning restrictions.

Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.