BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
Our hearts, like many of yours, are with the residents of the Old Fort who have been impacted by the recent landslide. While the landslide seems to have slowed down, it has taken out the power lines and only road leading in and out of the area. Most have been without power for more than a week with freezing temperatures meaning all appliances including furnaces haven’t been working while fridges and freezers are unthawing making life very difficult.
It’s one thing to see the landslide in pictures or to fly over it in the air by helicopter; it’s another to see it up close and to see the stress on the faces of people who are worried about their homes and livelihoods.
After meeting with some of you residents, we knew we had to do something. The response we received was overwhelming.
With only a few hours given to us to be in the area by the RCMP, we were able to help get an 81 year old man and his pet terrier out of the area, as well as many other pets, valuables, firearms, carpenters tools, numerous suitcases, plants and even one kitchen sink.
This could not have been done without the help of nine river boats and 10 helicopter trips, not to mention the countless vehicles and willing hands to help load and unload.
I especially want to thank the crews at Bailey Helicopters Ltd and D. Bauer Mechanical for sending six guys down with equipment and anti-freeze donated from Northern Metalic Sales to winterize 30 homes. I also want to thank all the volunteers who showed up and made the effort possible. The tears and heartfelt thanks of residents once we had them and some of their prized possessions out of harms way said it all.
It is times like these that really show what the North Peace is all about. Everyone cares about their neighbours and friends and we are always there for one another. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our community.
There has also been some much needed good news. Peace River Regional District has been given the okay to grant residents temporary re-entry to their homes to gather some belongings and get their homes ready for winter. It is important to note, however, that evacuation orders and alerts remain in place.
I have been meeting regularly with the Peace River Regional District and I want to assure residents that there is a plan to get you back into your homes and for life to return to normal as quickly as possible. This includes plans to restore power and road access. All of it hinges on the evacuation order being lifted or changed to an evacuation alert.
I have been blown away by the number of people who have come forward willing to volunteer their time and expertise to help Old Fort residents as soon as they are given the word that it is safe to do so.
Jeff Garrison has been asked by the Emergency Operations Centre to help organize volunteers who want to help Old Fort residents and I will continue to offer my support with these efforts. I am also working at the federal level to see what can be done in terms of long-term housing for displaced residents.
Be safe out there folks.