By Meg Olson
As Point Roberts continues to clear up the damage from the December 21 wind storm the local fire department continues to take a lead role.
“I have been in contact with Public Works and will be coordinating with them on the tree debris removal process from the roadsides, including the ditches,” said fire chief Christopher Carleton, anticipating to have a plan for the cleanup effort rolling by the end of the first week in January.
The fire department has also secured permission from the Northwest Clean Air Authority for a community burn pile that will be located on land owned by the water district adjacent to the Benson Road Fire Station. “This will be healthier for the community to have one large burn versus multiple small burns throughout the community,” Carleton said. “This also provides a central location for community members to continue harvesting fire wood from the larger debris that is not able to be chipped.”
Community members will have through January 31, 2019 to bring their tree debris to this location starting this weekend January 5, 2019. Cones will be on the property to guide placement of debris. “I would like your help to keep large sections of trees in one area that others may be able to cut up and use as firewood,” Carleton said.
Raye Newmen, leader of the Point Roberts Amateur Radio Club, who also took over as president of the Point Roberts Emergency Preparedness (PREP) group on December 19, said the two groups had a lot to learn from the recent disaster that saw the Point without power for four days and many roads blocked by debris. “One of our main goals is going to be to increase community awareness,” he said. “Many people didn’t know who PREP was, or what options were available to them.”
With the leadership transition at PREP so recent Newmen said he too was unclear as to what his role in shelter operations was, and Parks and Recreation District commissioner Bennett Blaustein was the one who got the community center open to serve as a shelter and worked with the food bank and volunteers to provide hot meals for three days. Carleton said they also opened the fire station for people to take a hot shower, recharge their electronics or spend the night.
Carleton mustered members of the amateur radio club as soon as the main power to the Point went down, and they spent the three days that the community center was operated as a shelter relaying information to the incident command center at the Benson Road fire station. Many people and businesses did not have phone service without power and brought information about damage to the community center if they could not get to the fire station.
“The new antenna on the community center did what it was built for!” said Sandy Henry who manned the radio for the bulk of the time.
The amateur radio club will meet on January 7 at the community center at 7 p.m. to talk about how they can improve their operations for the next time they are needed and encourage more community members to join them.
“We’re trying to close the information loop so that Chief Carleton as the incident commander knows what people are doing so efforts won’t be duplicated.”
Carleton said he had scheduled a debriefing meeting for January 11 for all the groups that responded to the emergency to talk about what happened and how they can better prepare for the next time. “From the information we gather at that meeting we hope to have a statement for the community and maybe schedule a community debrief meeting as well.”
In the interim Carleton said he is asking property owners to bring him any information regarding damage sustained during the incident, which was officially declared a disaster on December 21. “This is requested in order to provide this information to the county, therefore possibly expediting any permits necessary for you to repair and/or rebuild,” he said. “Whatever people can get to me I can forward to the right people.” Send damage reports including photos to Carleton at email@example.com. So far he said he had reports of five structures and one vehicle which sustained serious damage.