Kamloops promises 2nd paved road to neighbourhood evacuated by interface fire | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops promises 2nd paved road to neighbourhood evacuated by interface fire

The Kamloops East interface fire is seen in this July 1, 2021 photo.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK
July 06, 2021 - 2:38 PM

In the wake of the Kamloops East wildfire that burned between two Kamloops neighbourhoods, city council will discuss paving a new road.

At a press briefing today, July 6, chief administrative officer David Trawin said he will be recommending to council to have a permanent road built for the Juniper subdivision, for the city to adopt the Voyent Alert system already used by the Thompson Nicola Regional District, and to review a full and final report following the emergency operations on the night of July 1.

Trawin said there will also be a full debrief on what the city can learn from the event.

"Not just the response out in the field, but the response from the (Emergency Operations Centre) side of things, as well as the preparation side of things and what we may do different," Trawin said. "You can practice as much as you want from table tops, but you learn the most when you have a full response."

The results of the debrief will be made public once a full report is collected and discussed by city officials.

The location of a new road has not been decided, although the city's transportation master plan includes a plan to link Qu'appelle Boulevard with Rose Hill Road. That road likely will not begin construction until at least 2022 and there is no decision yet as to where that funding will come from.

Councillor Dale Bass said in an interview with iNFOnews.ca that she hopes council will approve the road.

"I will tell you that from the get-go we've been talking about this and what we're going to do there, but there are some hurdles, like money," Bass said. "The thing is, you can't just snap your fingers and get things done now. We have to find the money and go through processes."

She expects that council would rely on Trawin and city development departments to source funding for a new road.

City council approved 100 new properties on Mary 30 to expand the Juniper Ridge subdivision, adding pressure to an apparent need for another access road in and out of Juniper Ridge.

On July 1, residents cut the locks to access a gated emergency route out of the Juniper area.

Greg Wightman, city utility services manager, said it was possible for the gate to be unlocked by the city, but it was a conscious decision by the Emergency Operations Centre that the Highland Road be the preferred and only route down from Juniper.

"The image of a wildfire burning between two communities in our town is one that nobody will soon forget. This event has shaken our staff and shaken our city," Wightman said. "We've certainly heard questions and concerns from the community and we welcome that."

According to Wightman, emergency operations teams were prepared to unlock the gates if they deemed the gravel emergency roads were necessary, but it was decided that Highland Road was the safest route out of the city.

"Sending people down unlit, gravel, unmarked roads, (people who) are already feeling the effects of fear and anxiety, was not the safer of the roads," he said. "We had other plans in place should they be needed."

RCMP began knocking on doors and directing traffic from the area by 9:35 p.m., according to Kamloops RCMP Insp. Jeff Pelley. While he could not specify exact times that officers were directing traffic at the Highland Road roundabout, nor at the bottom of the hill, he said the tactical response involved knocking on doors to evacuate all residents whom the city decided was at risk while the fire was out of control.

After the first evacuation order was rescinded at 11:25 p.m., it was reissued an hour later to Juniper residents when winds and fire conditions changed.

Bringing on the Voyent Alert system would not negate the need for RCMP to conduct their evacuation process, Pelley said. However, it's possible that it could help speed up the process.

No word on when the city's full report on the Kamloops East interface wildfire will be made public.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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