Discover more from northern capital news
Is Prince George ready for another mass evacuation?
Plus, is the Ancient Forest in Prince George? And I fall for the bait. Read to the end for some cool crows
I’m writing that at about 9:00 p.m. on Monday night. As I do so, the entire city of Fort St. John is under an evacuation alert while, according to the Peace River Regional District, approximately 1,800 properties are under evacuation orders and another 3,100 on alert. With Fort St. John’s most recent population estimate at around 21,000 plus evacuation orders for area First Nations, we are looking at anywhere between 25,000 to 30-some-thousand people either under evacuation orders — meaning they need to be out of their homes now — or alerts, which means they have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
Now, to stress, as I write this emergency officials in Fort St. John do not seem to think the entire city will be evacuated, with emergency officials saying, “The worst-case scenario does not impact the city at this time," and “This is just an opportunity for people to be prepared," and I hope that holds true — but IF it doesn’t, this would be one of the largest mass evacuations we’ve seen.
I’m ballparking 25,000 to 30,000 people should the entire city of Fort St. John be forced to leave their homes, along with outlying areas. For comparison, in Alberta there are currently an estimated 20,000 people under evacuation order. So we could see the B.C. numbers outstrip those currently causing havoc in Alberta all in one go. A much closer comparison would be 2017 when the Cariboo Regional District issued evacuation orders for entire cities including Williams Lake and 100 Mile, resulting in more than 35,000 evacuees — one of the largest numbers in Canadian history.
And, if you were here at the time, you definitely noticed the arrivals. Folks were directed to stay at the College of New Caledonia, which because an entire staging ground for humanitarian efforts, with people sleeping in campers and in the gymnasium. In the end, about 10,000 people found their way here.
The result was a mixed bag. On the one hand, the city was praised for opening its doors to people in need. On the other, there was scrutiny of how the city paid some of its top managers thousands in overtime during the response while so many others were volunteering their time, leading to political fallout. By the time 2018 rolled around, the city was instead directing people towards hotels which could be reimbursed through provincial and other levels of emergency aid, rather than playing a direct role in overseeing things. Of course, that was only about 3,000 people, not 10,000, so it was a lot easier to handle.
So — back to this worst case scenario. The situation is, right now the highway north from Fort St. John is closed due to wildfire, and really the odds that you’re going to send 25,000—30,000 people up to Fort Nelson, espeically when getting supplies up there will be so difficult, is fairly low. Grande Prairie and Edmonton in Alberta are largely out as major reception centres because, again, Alberta has its own problems right now. Dawson Creek is currently taking evacuees, and could well be the place folks are directed to, but I am curious how much capacity a city of 12,000 has to take in double to triple its current population. So that kind of leaves Prince George as the closest major centre that would have the infrastructure and isn’t already dealing with other disasters as the place people would likely be headed to. (Tuesday morning update: New evacuees in need of support are now being directed to Prince George).
But even though this would be about twice as many people as we took in in 2017, it wouldn’t likely look quite the same, with everyone camped out in one major spot. I linked to this story yesterday but it’s worth reading My Prince George Now’s interview with the city’s manager of emergency operations Tanya Spooner to see what the thinking is about how we’d handle things now compared to six summers ago:
Looking back to those years, Spooner said it was unlike anything the province had ever seen, and they are better prepared to handle a similar evacuation if it is ever needed.
“Every time we have a major event, we have something called an After Action Review,” Spooner said. “We go through the event and figure out what did and didn’t work… that was the big difference between 2017 and 2018.”
Since then, Spooner said the city hires temporary emergency planning staff every summer, and have scaled down their reception centres.
“In 2017/18, we tried to be everything for everyone and have all the great services out there, and it wasn’t sustainable for long evacuation events,” she explained. “Now we are focused on getting people into the doors, registered, to a point of safety, and getting them their essential needs, not having them gather and stay on once site.”
She said the mass of evacuated people can be bad for mental health and wellbeing, and the focus on future evacuations will shift towards quickly getting people on to a more stable “new normal” as soon as possible.
Again, here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.
Is the Ancient Forest in Prince George?
Tourism Prince George has launched its first ad campaign to market the city not just to Canada and the United States, but also overseas, specifically Germany:
Monday marked the launch of its latest commercial, entitled “Greatest Hits”. The ad features attractions both in and out of doors in B.C.’s Northern capital, including Ancient Forest Provincial Park, Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park, Betulla Burning, and The Exploration Place, among others.
The advertisement serves as the local tourism agency’s latest marketing campaign, not only within B.C. and Canada, but to markets in the United States and Germany specifically.
“We know tourists from Europe, Asia and the U.S. are already stopping in our community. However, from the statistics we gather in our Visitor Centre, it’s often people passing through to reach their destination,” said Tourism Prince George’s CEO Colin Carson. “We want to not only be a soft landing for that, but we also want people to consider Prince George as their destination.”
It’s a great looking commercial showcasing both the urban and outdoor elements of the community and this is not a criticism so much as a question I’ve had for a while, which is: How much claim can we lay to Ancient Forest Provincial Park being part of Prince George? I know it’s only about an hour-and-a-half away, which is easily just a day trip but I think maybe my sticking point is the fact you’d have to rent a car to get there? My way of travel is to fly to whatever city I’m going to and then using transit to get around. And I think it’s kind of a shame that we market places like the Ancient Forest so heavily but there’s no way to get there unless you drive? Idk, maybe there’s eventually a market to be had for day trips out that direction for tourists if this campaign catches on. Anyways — good commercial, this is not a criticism of it!
Taking the bait
I’m not joking when I say this made me laugh out loud for a straight minute:
And this made me smile!
Although this makes me worry! I started the newsletter in part so I could get off Twitter, I hate to think I’m feeding people into it! Perhaps I’ll write a post about other social media spots I monitor!
BONUS: I ALSO saw some nice lilacs and was just about to paste them in this newsletter when I saw the above exchange.
Prince George fire department calls up 20.5% from 2022 (which was already high) and volunteer firefighters needed in all areas around Prince George.
While the average cost of home ownership in northern B.C. overall went 10 per cent between 2021 and 2022, the average selling price in Prince George has dropped by nearly 60-grand since April 2022.
Here are some cool crows:
Northern Capital News is a free, daily newsletter about life in Prince George. Please consider subscribing or, if you have, sharing with someone else.
Send feedback by replying to this email. Find me online at akurjata.ca.