FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Elsie Harden noticed the confusion and panic as a result of wildfires burning in the Peace region in 2016 and decided to inform residents the best she could to thwart misinformation that was being spread.
The Co-op Community Champion for July 2023 teamed up with some of her friends and other residents to create a Facebook page in 2016 focusing on providing residents with the proper information during emergency situations, especially wildfires.
With Fort St. John going under evacuation alert and Tumbler Ridge being evacuated a few weeks later, the wildfire situation in 2023 has been an impactful one for the Peace region. As a result, Harden once again reached out to some residents to help her post and monitor a new page, Peace Region Evac Helpline 2023.
As of this writing, the new page has 1,917 followers, and the last page had around 1,200, said Harden. However, the Dawson Creek resident didn’t create the page for followers or views — she just wanted to help.
“I like helping people. I want to help if I can. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, it did,” said Harden.
Harden used online resources along with her own experiences in emergencies and began posting on her personal Facebook page to help those needing to evacuate their homes before making a Facebook page for local emergencies.
Eventually, the Peace River Regional District started supplying her with information to post on her page. Harden and the moderators helping her out are constantly posting updates on wildfires in the region, emergency contacts, livestock hauling/boarding contacts and evacuation tips and checklists.
Although the page is currently tailored toward wildfires, Harden said the page is a helpline for anyone in the community in the midst of an emergency situation.
“We also have a lot of different recreation here. We’ve got people on boats, on quads, taking vehicles out four-by-fouring. If somebody’s in a bind, and they don’t have anybody they can call, it’s not gonna hurt my feelings if they ask for help.”
On paper, having to create lists, repost wildfire information and keep track of contacts for evacuees may sound easy, but Harden says it’s difficult, and it’s something she wouldn’t be able to do without the help of moderators on the page.
“They’re my eyes and ears and hands. I honestly couldn’t have done it without any of them, whether it was 2016 or this year. They’ve been pretty amazing.”
Harden isn’t just saying it, she probably couldn’t have managed the page without help. She has been off work since 2019 due to an autoimmune disease and Fibromyalgia, resulting in pain all over her body. She also had to take antibiotics intravenously this year due to constant infections.
“It’s just a part of it like the immunocompromised life there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s something I have to deal with. It was just trying to manage the group, do the lists and stuff like that, and then I would have to take a couple of hours in the evening to take the antibiotics and deal with that.”
Harden was born in Fort St. John in 1993 and lived here much of her life until moving to Dawson Creek in 2017.
Outside of the Facebook page, Harden helped out with the Fort St. John Legion a lot when she was living in the city, as her grandmother is heavily involved with the organization.
Harden was always around horses growing up and will utilize the skills she’s retained to help out the SPCA whenever they need it.
Congratulations to Elsie Harden for being named July’s Co-op Community Champion.
Anyone looking to nominate a community-minded person in need of recognition can head to Energeticcity’s website.