Are we ready for With Penticton's unique location, many fear "the big one" will eventually come not "if" but "when.
" "We're at the poker table and so far we've been fairly lucky," said Don Gayton, a retired ecologist from Summerland who spent 20 years working with forest services in Nelson. "With outlet mall coach store suburbs moving farther and farther up the mountainsides, there certainly is potential for interface fires here," Gayton said. "One has to remember that most houses catch fire as a result of airborne embers, rather than being caught in an actual fire front. Embers of significant size can travel half a kilometer in the air in front of a high intensity fire." This summer there have been four close calls in the immediate area two on the West Bench, one in Naramata, another in Kaleden. A fire that came within 10 kilometers of the Princeton Airport resulted in 3,300 hectares of burning, the loss of two homes (one belonging to an RCMP officer), several buildings, and one business, Laska's Flooring. Mop up of the fire, which began July 7, continues. The final day of the Shambhala Music Festival, near Nelson, was scheduled to be cancelled due to the threat of a nearby wildfire but the show did go on. "Each summer the Okanagan is susceptible to wildfires and has experienced some notable wildfires," said BC Wildfire Service executive director Madeline Maley. "The current wildfire situation in the Cariboo is a reminder to all of us that we need to be prepared. On July 7, there was an unprecedented 142 new wildfire starts in the province with the vast majority started by lightning and in the Cariboo. We know that as a result of climate change we're starting to see more intense wildfire seasons." Some experts predict fire season could extend into October. "Penticton will experience a disaster at some point the question is from what and when, and how can we mitigate its impacts," said Jeremy Stone, director of the Vancouver based Recovery and Relief. (Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are among the disaster recoveries Stone has worked on.) Looking back at the West Bench fire of July 20, Penticton fire chief Larry Watkinson said it could have been far worse. "If the fire department didn't take action on the fire like we did in the West Bench, 250 homes could have been lost and that hillside would still be burning today," he said. "This is not paranoia this is reality, we're living in this. Look at the Lake Country fire (of July 2017). It traveled so quickly that fire departments couldn't keep up with it." Watkinson said wildfire readiness is his No. 1 priority. His staff works on hypothetical scenarios daily, discussing afterward what went right and where to improve. "If there's a fire on Campbell Mountain, how do we get there? Who is the commander? We play these things out," Watkinson said. The fire department has identified the many high risk areas in the region, all of which can be found on the City of Penticton's website. "We could easily see mass evacuations based on those hillsides and fire behaviour that we've already been able to identify as high risk," Watkinson said. THE GOOD NEWS Penticton and the surrounding area is well prepared, Watkinson insists. The Community Wildfire Protection plan is completed. Okanagan fire chiefs meet on a regular basis. Penticton has a reciprocal arrangement with neighbouring communities including West Kelowna. The Penticton Community Centre, already utilized in July to help fire victims from Princeton and Williams Lake, has been identified as the community's evacuation centre. An evacuation arrangement with Washington state does not exist. If, in the event of an enormous fire, resources would first come from within British Columbia and then Alberta. Firefighters from Mexico have been used in other places in the province this summer. An emergency call centre with six phones was created at the Penticton Fire Hall on Nanaimo Avenue if in the event of a full scale blaze. Firefighters in the area also enjoy an "amazing" working relationship with RCMP, Watkinson said. coach outlet mall online During last month's West Bench fire, Mounties were running up coach outlet coupons ziploc and down the street, banging on doors, telling residents to evacuate immediately. Mark Woods, community services manager for the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, said tremendous improvements have been made since the Filmon Firestorm which wreaked havoc across the Okanagan in 2003. "We didn't have an emergency management program in 2003 and frankly, most municipalities at that time didn't have one.
Since then legislation changed and all municipalities are required to have an emergency management program," Woods said. The RDOS recently hired a coach outlet coupons october 2016 consulting firm which analyzed its seven fire departments, administrative structure and delivery of fire services.
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