Safety during periods of heightened fire activity:
You can stay safe during a wildfire by knowing your trusted sources of information, understanding the stages of an evacuation, and looking out for your health and safety. Take time to understand where to find trusted information. If a wildfire is directly threatening your community, the best information sources are your municipality, regional district, Band office or local authority. Find out in advance how they’ll share vital information, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, a website or a phone number
The PRRD will share vital information by:
- Posting to the Peace River Regional Districts Website
- Posting to the Peace River Regional Districts Facebook and Twitter pages
- Sending North East BC Emergency and Public Alerts, sign up by clicking here – it only takes a few moments and can be crucial in an emergency!
Receiving an Evacuation Alert or Order can be an unsettling and emotional experience. We understand that you may be reluctant to leave your home and community; however, choosing to remain in an area under Order puts yourself, your family and first responders in danger. It is not worth the risk.
If you have been placed under an Evacuation Order, that means you are advised to leave the area for your safety and the safety of firefighters and other first responders. People who remain in an area that is under Order may impede the ability of fire crews to fight a wildfire because they may be forced to stop fighting fire to keep you out of harm’s way.
In a volatile wildfire situation, first responders and other authorized personnel may not be able to reach an evacuated area because of a risk to their own safety or because access routes are blocked.
People who decide to “wait and see” may find their escape route blocked by fallen trees or abandoned vehicles, and once familiar landmarks may be blanketed in thick smoke. As well, access to emergency services (police, fire, ambulance, search and rescue) and communications tools (cell and landline telephone, internet access) may be impacted. Numerous fatalities have occurred when people chose to remain behind and then decided to leave only when the fire “got closer”.
Help us keep you and your community safe by following Evacuation Orders. If you receive an order, do not hesitate to leave.
What is Evacuation Alert vs. Evacuation Order?
There are three stages to an evacuation:
- Evacuation Alert: A warning is issued to residents, and people are asked to be ready to leave on short notice. (When people choose to leave an area before or during the issuing of the alert, this is referred to as a voluntary evacuation.)
- Evacuation Order: When there is an impending risk of a wildfire, an evacuation order is issued and people must leave the area immediately. This decision is based off a recommendation from the Incident Commander to the local government. (Local police or RCMP enforces Evacuation Orders, and oftentimes we assist with alerting people by knocking on doors.)
- Evacuation Rescind: An Evacuation Order or alert is rescinded when it is determined to be safe for residents to return home. An Evacuation Order may be reinstated if a threat returns.
How do “we” (BCWS, EMBC, Regional District, etc.) enforce?
- There is legislation, including the Emergency Program Act and the Wildfire Act, which authorize various types of evacuations.
- An Evacuation Alert or Order (not including tactical evacuations) must be authorized by the local government.
- The BC Wildfire Service also has the authority to conduct a tactical evacuation to get people out of an area quickly due to operational requirements. This type of evacuation is especially valuable when time does not permit orders or alters, when there is no local authority, when a fire is on provincial or federal lands, or upon request from a First Nation.
- Other acts that concern the power to implement evacuations include: Fire Services Act, Health Act, Mines Act, Waste Management Act, Worker’s Compensation Act, Child Protection Act, and Petroleum and Natural Gas Act.
How do I know if there is an Alert or Order in place?
- The Regional District will notify you of any Alerts or Orders put in place. The BC Wildfire Service does not implement Alerts or Orders.
- The PRRD will also notify you of any Alerts or Orders by sending North East BC Emergency and Public Alerts, sign up by clicking here.
- If you are feeling anxious, you may check the PRRD’s website for any updates as they happen. If you are in an area under an Alert or Order, we will inform you.
Why is there an Evacuation Order and when can I return home?
- The decision to recommend an Evacuation Order or alert to the local government is based on a number of factors. These include current and predicted fire behaviour, weather conditions and weather forecasts and site conditions. It is the safety of members of the public and staff on the ground that is the highest priority and Evacuation Orders and Alerts will remain in place until the risk is alleviated.
- We are hopeful you can return home safely very soon. Ultimately, evacuation orders and alerts are issued by your local regional district based on recommendations from the BC Wildfire Service, they can provide the most accurate and up-to-date information.
What should people do with their pets if they have to evacuate?
If you need to evacuate, take your pets with you. Do not leave them behind.
Who is responsible for helping protect livestock and farm animals in a wildfire emergency?
- Local governments are responsible for livestock and farm animals. It is possible that you may be able to apply for travel permits for some purposes, and allowing the feeding of livestock may be considered.
- When emergencies occur, staff from the Ministry of Agriculture work with Emergency Management BC and local governments to provide support when agriculture is involved.
Wildfire behaviour in an evacuation order area:
- Most people in B.C. have never experienced an active wildfire event. These situations can be disorienting and confusing, and your ability to keep yourself and your family safe may be severely impacted.
- You may be in danger even if you cannot see the wildfire because it can spread quickly when embers are blown ahead of the fire. These embers can be carried for kilometres and start new fires between you and safety. Sheltering in a home or other structure is no guarantee that you’ll be safe from an approaching wildfire.
- Wildfire activity is heavily impacted by weather conditions which means that fire activity can increase suddenly and rapidly due to wind, heat and dryness. The wildfire itself can contribute to these conditions.
- A wildfire can be relentless. Stress and sleep deprivation over several days can decrease your alertness and impact your ability to think clearly. This can impair decision making, slow your reaction time and increase the likelihood that you’ll make mistakes.