May 04, 2016 - 5:00 PM
FORT McMURRAY FIRE A REMINDER OF FIRE VULNERABILITY OF THE OKANAGAN
CENTRAL OKANAGAN - With fire season bearing down on us and dramatic images of people fleeing the flames in Fort McMurray, the Kelowna Fire Department says it’s a good time for people to look around their neighbourhoods with possible evacuation in mind.
“You need to think about 'what are my access points',” Kelowna Fire Department deputy chief Travis Whiting says.
He has the job of activating the emergency operations centre in case of a large interface fire and says local residents should be talking about what to do in event of emergency evacuation.
“If I had to leave quickly, where would I meet up with my family. Those are the conversations people should be having with their loved ones.”
Whiting declined to point to any one neigbhourhood in the Central Okanagan as being of particular concern.
“This is an area with lots of interface, it has a hot dry summer, every neighbourhood has to be concerned,” he says.
Evacuation in Fort McMurray was hampered by confusion and the lack of ways to get out of the city, but Whiting says the emergency operations centre does not use designated escape routes.
“It is situationally dependent on where the fire starts, where the people are and where we need to move them to,” he added.
Whiting says during an emergency, the operations centre will work quickly with agencies such as local RCMP and the Ministry of Transportation to develop the best routes out of a fire zone.
“Then we promote and advertise where people need to move and how to get there,” he adds.
The Central Okanagan has seen several large-scale evacuations since the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire destroyed 238 houses in the south end of the city.
In July 2009, the Glenrosa fire forced the evacuation of 10,000 residents and resulted in the loss of four houses. A couple of days later, the Rose Valley fire caused the evacuation of 8,000 more residents. More recently, the Smith Creek fire forced 2,500 people from their homes in 2014.
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