AFTER AVERTING WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN A MAJOR DISASTER IN THE SMALL COMMUNITY LAST SUMMER, MANY KALEDEN RESIDENTS ARE IN THE MOOD TO MAKE PLANS TO MITIGATE FUTURE FIRES
PENTICTON - One might wonder why a community would be getting together to talk about wildfires this time of year, especially when it looks like winter has arrived in the South Okanagan.
But that’s exactly what the community of Kaleden will be doing on Tuesday, Nov. 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Kaleden Community Hall.
The July 4 wildfire that burned a residence and numerous outbuildings in the south end of the community has created an awareness that the community, like many others in British Columbia, is vulnerable to the ravages of a wildfire.
Kaleden Community Association and Kaleden Recreation Commission member Neal Dockendorf is one community member who was spurred to action by the event. He’s organizing a town hall meeting for late November aimed at those within Kaleden’s fire protection area to come and discuss last summer’s event and talk about ways to prevent a future wildfire in the community.
Dockendorf says he would have liked to have held the meeting earlier in the year, as many in the community want an opportunity to get a debriefing outlining how events unfolded July 4. The Nov. 28 meeting will provide an opportunity for that to happen.
“There was a lot of angst in the community, there still is. We’ll have an opportunity now to access fire officers and officials who were too busy during the summer, we’ll have representatives of regional district reps, B.C. Wildfire officials and the local fire department to talk about what happened July 4, and what their roles were,” Dockendorf says.
He says the meeting, expected to last a couple of hours, will be broken down into two parts. Part one will offer an opportunity to review the fire, talk about the agencies and emergency services who responded, what their roles were and why.
“We’ll have an opportunity to hear from all the players that came in here, hopefully provide a bit of education and background, and give people some confidence that what went on was necessary,” he says.
The second part of the meeting will be devoted to finding out if the community is interested in moving forward with fire mitigation efforts by participating in a provincial fire smart community program.
“It’s provincially based, the community has to buy in,” Dockendorf says, adding if interest is favourable a wildfire risk assessment would be done in the community to determine risk levels and risk areas, in order to develop a “prescription” to reduce risk in the future.
“Our challenge here is 90 per cent of the property in Kaleden is privately owned. The responsibility lies with homeowners to cut fields of tall grass, etc. Are they prepared to take some steps towards reducing these risks?” he says, adding if there is enough interest, next steps would be to try and find funding to do a full assessment in order to come up with a strategy to discuss with residents next spring.
Kaleden Fire Department Chief Denis Gaudry says he hopes the meeting will help residents new to the community to understand what emergency services are available and who provides them. He’s aware many in the community have questions about the tactical evacuation that took place and the lack of “instant” information.
“The fire department wants to concentrate on putting the fire out and work with other people like those with evacuation duties. We also want to see if the community is interested in moving forward with a wildfire protection plan so we can begin lessening the risk of a wildfire in the community in time for next year,” he says.
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