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Okanagan Similkameen directors urge discretion when imposing evacuation orders

FILE PHOTO - Helicopters work the Wilsons Mountain wildfire fire near Oliver in August 2015.
March 28, 2016 - 11:09 AM

PENTICTON - Okanagan Similkameen Regional Distrct board members don’t want to see a one-size-fits-all policy used to enforce emergency evacuation orders.

The directors are putting together a list of recommendations and concerns regarding the provincial government's plan to modernize the 23-year-old Emergency Program Act. 

Local and provincial agencies are permitted to declare a state of emergency and issue an evacuation order, but current legislation relies on residents to voluntarily evacuate. The province argues those choosing to remain behind can cause unnecessary risk to themselves and emergency response personnel already burdened in a time of crisis.

The province wants police to have the ability to use reasonable force to enforce an evacuation order. The proposed changes would give police the authority to apprehend those unwilling to comply, in addition to having the person pay for costs associated with police enforcement of the evacuation order.

“Nobody likes to see an evacuation order, especially the RCMP, because that’s a lot of work for them,” regional district chief administrative officer Bill Newell says, adding there is a obligation to keep people safe.

Newell says even if emergency crews are just flying over and they see people where they are not supposed to be, ground resources could be sent in.

"It’s a matter of knowing who’s supposed to be in there and having a record of it, then authorizing that to know they’re safe,” he says.

There is always local involvement in an evacuation order, Newell says, and the emergency operations centre would be asking the police as a last resort to enforce the order.

Cawston director George Bush objects to an evacuation order that would see the affected area completely cleared of citizens, noting he operates a farm where animals would need to be fed and maintained on a daily basis.

Naramata director Karla Kozackevich would like discretion when it comes to imposing evacuation orders. He points to an order issued four years ago in the Indian Rock area due to the potential for flooding. Kozackevich says a property owner didn't remove his horses and stay behind to look after them.

“He knew very well if that flood happened, it would not impact his property, so he stayed put,” she says, noting residents do have some knowledge regarding the dangers facing them.

District emergency services supervisor Dale Kronebusch says part of emergency operations centre’s work is to operate a re-entry permit system that would monitor ingress and egress of people in the evacuated zone.

The regional district will be forwarding a response to the province by April 11 with their issues of concern regarding the proposed changes to the legistlation.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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