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Citizens left in the dark about controlled Ridley fire

Port Edward residents ask for more notification and better consultation
The view from Port Edward of black smoking coming from Ridley Island Industrial Site. Contributed photo

Officials were made aware of the week-long burning on Ridley Island, but some Port Edward citizens were not impressed that they were left in the dark.

“This morning I woke up to the taste of chemical in my mouth,” Carrie Thorpe said at the District of Port Edward council on June 27. “My concern is I’d like to see the district get the word out to the residents. If we as residents have a concern, where do we get that information from?”

In preparation for a new logistics facility on Ridley Island Industrial Site, the Port of Prince Rupert cleared and burned organic and some inorganic materials for a week ending on Monday, June 26. The district and the City of Prince Rupert had been informed of the fire, but the message didn’t spread to the general public.

“We want to be proactive and be ahead of it. When I first noticed the smoke I contacted 911. If the community is given the heads up if there’s a controlled burn, then we’d be happy to circulate the information,” Willa Thorpe said to the mayor and councillors.

The Prince Rupert Fire Department was made aware of the fire so they wouldn’t have rushed out after the 911 call.

Municipalities typically monitor air quality and issue fire permits, and although Ridley Island is within city boundaries, the area falls under federal control.

“The port contacts the Ministry of Environment for approval and they notify the fire hall as a courtesy,” Candice Campbell said on behalf of the City of Prince Rupert. “Since it doesn’t fall under our jurisdiction we don’t monitor the air quality.”

District of Port Edward councillors and staff admitted they didn’t realize how big the fire was going to be.

“I didn’t expect it to be the magnitude it was,” councillor Dan Franzen said.

Mayor Dave MacDonald agreed to provide more notice to the community and made a motion to speak with the Port of Prince Rupert about their procedure in this type of circumstance “because there is going to be more of it,” he said.

Council passed the motion to invite the port to speak with them at a future district meeting.