August 01, 2013 - 4:57 AM
KELOWNA - The dial on the fire hazard sign at the entrance to Knox Mountain Park is now in the red - indicating an extremely high risk for a wildfire.
The city has responded by closing the upper portion of Knox Mountain Drive to vehicle traffic starting Aug. 1. Cars will not be allowed up the road beyond the first gate but can access the first look-out point.
Trail users will still have full access to the park trails, but only on foot or by bike.
Urban Forestry Supervisor Blair Stewart says they've been closing the front gates every summer for the last five years. This year they decided to open the road as far as the second gates, giving tourists a chance to take in some of the views from the first lookout.
"We'll see how it works - we'll have to keep a close eye on it,” Stewart says.
The main concern is that visitors driving into the park might throw their cigarettes butts out the window, a risk the city wants to eliminate from the equation.
No fires have been reported in the park in recent years, Stewart says, aside from an incident in 2010 near Paul's Tomb.
Forestry workers regularly remove dead pine needles from the park and any other fuel material that could increase the fire risk. While there are some dead trees in the park stricken by pine beetle, Stewart says they're on the decline.
"This year were down to 50 plus," he says.
Campfires and smoking are strictly prohibited in the park. A campfire ban throughout the Central Okanagan was also announced by the district today, taking effect tomorrow at noon. Local fire chiefs requested the ban due to the recent intensity in hot, dry weather.
The campfire ban applies to the Regional District of Central Okanagan, including the City of Kelowna, District of West Kelowna, District of Lake Country and the Central Okanagan East and West Electoral Areas.
View of downtown Kelowna from Knox Mountain
(JULIE WHITTET / iNFOnews.ca)
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013