It was standing room only at the city’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) open house at the Civic Centre this afternoon (May 15).
Dozens of concerned residents attended the Noon presentation to hear from representatives from the city, B.C. Wildfire Service and the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George (RDFFG).
The city has partnered with the RDFFG and other community partners to create the community wildfire protection plan, which aims to help reduce the risk of wildfires in and around Prince George.
“It’s a framework to create a community that is designed and prepared to defend against wildfires,” said Josh Kelly, Supervisor of Energy, Environment and Sustainability, regarding the protection plan.
The plan was created with the help of Diamond Head Consulting and also presented to city council at the April 29 regular meeting, which is available online.
“The real impacts that we’ve seen in the city in the last 10 years have been the smoke from other fires burning in the province,” said Kelly. “I’m sure everyone is aware at that 2018 was the worst wildfire season on record and the impacts that we had to air quality in the city.”
In his presentation, Kelly notes Prince George is at moderate risk and there are 14 high priority areas around the city that are recommended for treatment.
The City is hosting an Open House today. Drop by anytime until 8:00pm @pgciviccentre. The next presentation starts at 6:00pm.— Prince George, BC (@CityofPG) May 15, 2019
Attend and learn about FireSmart activities individuals and homeowners can use to prepare for wildfire emergencies. Info: https://t.co/3mNnxpInU7 pic.twitter.com/jojbw4T39n
“Treatments include thinning trees in the canopy and cleaning up areas on the ground that may have a lot of fuels,” said Kelly. “I’m hoping that one of the take-a-ways we can get across from this event is that the threat and risk we within Prince George is mainly lower than most people think. We do have a lot of mixed forest here not heavily dominated by conifers so we are a more moderate risk.”
However, Kelly noted the CWPP does not include information about private lands, which is why FireSmart education is so important.
“It’s really about everybody getting educated and aware about what you can do on your own property to be more FireSmart,” said Kelly, adding “FireSmart is a shared responsibility for everybody to reduce the risk of wildfire and when your community participates together it helps increase your resiliency and it’s about stopping a wildland fire from the forest from coming into the community.”
The event also included a summary of the progress being made on the city’s Emergency Strategic Plan, which is a five-year strategy that aims to improve the city’s readiness for all foreseeable emergencies, including wildfires.
This was presented by Adam Davy, manager of emergency programs, who said one of the key take-a-ways is that households need to be prepared for at least 72 hours.
“Folks who do not have an emergency kit I highly encourage you to build one,” said Davy, adding that it should include three days of supplies, food, water clothing and anything else you may need and could be stored in something like a plastic tote or hockey bag.
“The other side to the emergency kit is a grab and go bag, which is more like a backpack. The idea of this is you put all of your important documents in there and some cash. If we ever had to evacuate in real time rapidly, the idea is you just grab this and go.”
For the last few weeks, the city has also been hosting a series of training exercises to train staff, external agencies and emergency personnel to refine the evacuation plan.
The final exercise will be a “rehearsal of concept drill” held at Kin 1 on May 17 and following the exercise series, city staff will provide council with a final report about the lessons learned during the events and update the official evacuation plan which will be completed in June.
Davy said that although the risk is elevated Prince George wildfire has always been a hazard for the city.
“If you can remember 10-15 years back when the pine beetle epidemic was at its peak. There was a lot of dead trees in town. That risk is no longer there. The next series of prescriptions that will be in place by 2020 will reduce this even further,” said Davy.
“When we look at it, yes the risk is there. It’s important to plan. It’s important to be FireSmart but at the same time people have to enjoy your summer as much as possible.”
The CWPP open house at Civic Centre ends tonight at 8 p.m. and another presentation will be taking place at 6 p.m.
An evacuation map modelled off of the city’s garbage collection map is available for download on the City’s Emergency Response web page. You can also subscribe to emergency alerts on the city’s website to stay up-to-date.