Haisla volunteer fire department worked hard with limited information

The Haisla Volunteer Fire Department was being praised by residents as members went door-to-door in Kitamaat Village.

The Haisla Volunteer Fire Department was being praised by residents through social media as members went door-to-door in Kitamaat Village telling people they needed to get to higher ground.

Andrew Bolton Jr., Fire Services Emergency Coordinator for the Haisla fire department, said that there were hiccups in getting information to their department from other levels of government — down phone lines and Internet compounded the issue — but they say that the approximately 400 residents that needed evacuating were cooperative to volunteers.

The majority of the fire department reported to duty at the fire hall shortly after the earthquake just after 8 p.m. on Oct. 27 and even Haisla Nation Council members showed up to offer any assistance they could.

“A lot of people were really cooperative,” said Bolton about the homeowners who were forced to leave.

There was however some confusion regarding possible danger in the hours after the earthquake. Bolton said that with phone lines not working and Internet down meant they couldn’t access necessary information until about half an hour after the quake.

When they finally got a working phone line they rang the Kitimat Fire Department for information and that’s how they learned about the tsunami warning.

As they mobilized volunteers to warn residents to leave, they were in touch with the Provincial Emergency Program, who advised the fire department to use the PEP website to get their updates.

By then Internet was working but Bolton said it took over an hour for them to see the first bulletin posted online from the government.

That’s an issue that seemed to be shared universally, as executive director of operations for Emergency Management BC Chris Duffy fielded numerous questions from reporters this afternoon about delayed information from the province.

“Nothing was coming up,” Bolton told the Sentinel.

As for residents, those with vehicles got in their cars and picked up their families who didn’t have a ride, and took off either to the Village’s newest subdivision or into town. Bolton says homeowners in their Bench subdivision were eager to open their doors to people forced from their homes to provide shelter and heat.

And while some people also had family in the town of Kitimat, many people had no where to go and Bolton said some people just parked their cars at the viewpoint to wait the event out.

“That’s something we’re going to have to work together with on the town side,” he said.

Future plans could involve opening up local schools or churches, he suggested.