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Be careful out there: Regional District urges caution with wildfire season underway

RCMP assist in evacuating Kaleden residents on Oak Avenue at Lakehill Road, affected by Tuesday's fire. Regional District community services manager Mark Woods discussed the difficulties involved in emptying half the community while the other half returned from work at today's board meeting, July 6, 2017.
July 06, 2017 - 9:00 PM

PENTICTON - The Regional District has "switched gears from flood to fires."

That from community services manager Mark Woods at the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board meeting today, July 6.

Woods provided the directors with an update on the two recent wildfires, one in Cawston last week and this week's wildfire in Kaleden.

Calling the Kaleden wildfire "probably the largest event of that nature to ever have occurred in Kaleden,” Woods said the response was a good example, in spite of the tragedy of losing a home and an outbuilding, of mutual aid bringing the necessary assistance to a community.

Woods called the initial moments of the incident “a little chaotic,” but said a command and control structure was in place and it worked.

“As much as it’s difficult to empty half a community while the other half is on its way home from work at 4:45 p.m., that was pretty much the nature of it, that’s the way it goes,” he said.

Woods commended the crews involved and the City of Penticton for keeping its reception centre open. He said 265 residents registered and 21 properties were placed under evacuation alert that night.

“All in all it was well done,” he said.

Kaleden director Tom Siddon said early arrival of air tankers saved a “major crisis for the whole community.”

“Lots of gullies, lots of grass, and abandoned orchards where this fire seems to have started,” he said.

“I think there’s an object lesson here, when we live on the edge of nature in these interface areas, and we don’t do enough around our own homes and properties, and we have the ministry not cutting the ditches and cut banks, many of which are covered with sagebrush, pine, and tumbleweed. It’s a fire waiting to start,” Siddon said, adding something needed to be done about reducing the fuel load or there would be more fires in the future.

Woods said he was hearing B.C. Wildfire crews saying this year was looking to be a lot like 2003, the year of the Okanagan Mountain Park fire.

“The potential is there. People need to use extreme caution when they are out, clean up their yards and make sure they are vigilant and careful,” he said.

Woods also had praise for emergency crews in the Similkameen calling the response to a grass fire that broke out near Cawston on June 27 excellent. He said strong winds pushed the wildfire down into the valley bottom, forcing tactical evacuation by the fire department of eight homes.


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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