Okanagan, Shuswap regional districts monitoring for landslides after last summer's wildfires | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Okanagan, Shuswap regional districts monitoring for landslides after last summer's wildfires

A new early warning system for landslides is being implemented near the former Two Mile Creek wildfire in Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park.
Image Credit: Columbia Shuswap Regional District

Following last year’s record-breaking wildfires, regional districts in the Okanagan and Shuswap are closely monitoring areas impacted by wildfire for landslide risk.

"A severe wildfire damages the forest canopy, as well as the smaller plants and soil below the trees. This can result in increased runoff after intense rainfall or a rapid snowmelt, putting homes or other structures below the burned area at risk of localized floods and landslides," according to a Ministry of Forests information pamphlet on landslide risks.

With winter snowmelt underway, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is working with local and provincial agencies to prepare for spring freshet. As of March 24, there have been no reports of landslides, rockslides or mudslides impacting private property within the region, district manager of emergency services Sean Vaisler said in an email.

Though they’re monitored throughout the year, landslides tend to occur more often during freshet or as a result of extreme weather and rain events, Vaisler said. Areas of concern for the regional district are near Princeton and Coalmont Road.

READ MORE: 'We lost everything': Many residents in Princeton still digging out from flood

A recent report to the Regional District of Central Okanagan board of directors said it is monitoring the Killiney Beach and Estamont areas and other areas affected by the White Rock Lake and Mount Law wildfires.

Last month, the board was presented with the two assessments, completed by the province, examining areas within the regional district, Okanagan Indian Band and Regional District of North Okanagan as some areas are now at risk for potential flooding or slides, according to the regional district report.

Sandra Follack, Central Okanagan Emergency program coordinator and Kelowna deputy fire chief, said the district is watching to see what the ground is doing, particularly in the former White Rock Lake and Mount Law wildfire zones.

In areas that have been severely burned, post-wildfire risks may last for two years or more, according to the province. However, the increased risk of floods or debris flows in severely burned areas may persist much longer.

After two or three years, the regrowth of vegetation and reduced water repellency of the soil should lower the risk of landslides.

An early landslide warning system is being implemented for those affected in the Shuswap near the Two Mile Creek wildfire, according to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s press release issued March 22.

“A study by the geotechnical engineering firm BGC Engineering determined that damage caused to the landscape from the summer’s Two Mile Road wildfire has made the slopes above the Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park unstable and at risk of a debris flood, and possibly a debris flow.”

The system is designed to use weather forecasting data to determine if an evacuation alert or order would need to be issued for residents in the area and the Ministry of Forests is funding the $30,000 cost of the system.

It is expected to be operational at the beginning of April.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 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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