August 16, 2013 - 9:28 AM
KELOWNA - On August 16th, ten years ago, a single strike of lightning ignited B.C.'s worst wildfire on record.
For this 10-year anniversary, Minister of Forests and Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson says the tragedy still stands as a painful reminder of the risk of careless fire use.
Today's late summer, tinder-dry landscape reflects the same conditions that allowed the 2003 wildfire to spread as aggressively as it did, Thomson says.
"Despite the best efforts of our hardworking firefighting crews and dedicated fire management professionals, the intense flames spread quickly and eventually burned over 25,900 hectares before the blaze was extinguished," he says.
It forced more than 33,000 people from their homes, "including members of my own family and many friends and neighbours in Kelowna and Naramata," Thomson says.
A total of 238 homes were either damaged or destroyed, as well as a dozen of the region's historic trestles.
But out of the ashes came a valuable lesson, Thomson says. Both the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch and communities through the province have better resources in place to tackle interface fires - quickly and decisively.
Prevention, however, remains the most important strategy.
"With many parts of British Columbia experiencing an unusually dry summer this year, it is vital that we all adhere to local and provincial fire regulations," Thomson says, and encourages anyone who spots a wildfire or a campfire violation to report it by calling *5555 on a cellphone or calling 1 800 663-5555 toll-free.
If you're unsure about the province's regulations on fire use or want to check the status on current wildfires visit the BC Wildfire website.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013