Residents of a British Columbia community who were ordered out of their homes nearly three weeks ago because of a slowly moving landslide briefly occupied a local municipal office, demanding answers about their situation.
Wednesday’s protest at the Peace River Regional District office in Fort St. John was prompted by a Pacific Northern Gas decision to cut the natural gas supply to about 50 homes in Old Fort, barely a day after power had been restored to the Fort St. John suburb.
The gas supplier says in a statement that the gas line to Old Fort was isolated because of safety concerns as some residents tried to relight gas pilot lights in their homes after electricity returned.
Pacific Northern Gas says the line to the community should be repressurized by late Thursday and homeowners can then apply to have pilot lights relit.
Residents were also told that a draft report assessing the Sept. 30 landslide and identifying ongoing hazards is nearing completion and will then be analyzed by an independent geotechnical firm, which may provide additional recommendations.
All homes in Old Fort were evacuated Oct. 7, one week after the steep hillside above the northeastern community began to slump, tearing out the only road and knocking down power lines as it moved toward properties along the banks of the Peace River.
A post on the Peace River Regional District website says the draft report on the slide could be ready by late Friday but a delay is possible because provincial agencies recently forwarded “significant additional data” to the company preparing the study.
“When dealing with public safety, it is important to be right, rather than expeditious,” the post said.
In addition to assessing ongoing hazards, the regional district says Westrek Geotechnical Services will make recommendations “regarding whether it is safe for residents to return to their properties and under what conditions.”
The office says Westrek’s entire report, any recommendations from the independent geotechnical firm, plus any comments from provincial agencies will then be sent for a legal review before being returned to the regional district board for careful consideration.
“The report will provide guidance to the residents of Old Fort about the safety of their community with regards to the landslide risk,” the post said, although it provides no timeline for completion of the process.
The Canadian Press