A wildfire burning in Kaleden has forced the evacuation of 18 homes, and much of the small community is under evacuation alert. Photo courtesy John Poon

Regional directors call for more fire smart programs

Several Regional District of Okanagan-Similkmeen directors questioned if government was doing enough

As first responders worked to put out a grass fire on West Bench Thursday, several Regional District of Okanagan-Similkmeen directors questioned if government was doing enough to mitigate fire risks.

Tom Siddon, director for Area D, said there are a number of individuals throughout his area that are eager to fire safe their communities.

Related: Penticton bush fire became “massive” from large, dead tree

“There is a group in Kaleden that really want to get going on this. I think there’s a lot of public education that needs to go on and work that can be done,” Siddon said. “People are asking what can they do. They want to get engaged.”

The community of Kaleden had a fire earlier this summer that burned down a house and outbuildngs, forcing a temporary evacuation.

Related: Kaleden resident in ‘utter shock’ at losing home in wildfire

Siddon said there’s a confusion in the community and others about what people should be doing to make their neighbourhoods and properties fire smart. He suggested a regional wildfire mitigation plan should be created and public education campaign undertaken.

“I used a weedeater to cut the long grass along the bank. I know some people would say I’m taking a risk when I do that but there’s also a risk leaving the long grass,” he said.

Michael Brydon, director for Area F (West Bench), returned to the meeting after checking in on his home, which was near the fire evacuation area.

He called for the RDOS to again lobby the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to increase the Fire Smart Program so more communities can come up with their own fire risk reduction plans. Brydon called the program “a good first step” but voiced concerns that more in-depth plans are needed.

“All anyone has to do is to walk out into our interface. We are falling so far short on this. We can’t rely on community groups to solve this. We need to push the provincial government,” he said.

Mark Woods, community service manager for the RDOS said two communities received $10,000 grants from UBCM this year to create fire smart programs.

For other communities, Woods said consultations could be arranged with a wild fire expert.

Woods said people needed to be incredibly vigilant as dry conditions continue.

He suggested cleaning up yards, not using power tools that might cause sparks and staying out of the back country with equipment that could cause a fire.

Questions came in from several directors about people camping in the back country and if there was anyway to stop that from happening.

Woods was clear that at this point the public has the right to camp on Crown Land for a maximum of 14 days but suggested if anyone sees a fire anywhere that they immediately call 911.

“This is something we hear on the EOC calls every day. This is a problem everywhere,” he said. “I’ll tell you, if I saw someone having a campfire anywhere right now I would be calling 911.”

A more in-depth report about regional options for reducing fire risks will be presented at the next RDOS meeting on Aug. 3.

Just Posted

Town pitches in to help homeless man on bicycle

Sixty-one-year-old was hauling his possessions from Penticton to Hope

Mamas for Mamas founder survives with new lease on life

Kelowna’s Shannon Christensen escaped a dangerous situation and lived to tell about it

Princeton woman who forged husband’s will gets house arrest

Judge says Odelle Simmons did not benefit from her crime

Okanagan a hot spot for film industry

Despite wet, smoky year Okanagan attracts $30 million in film production

Interior Health managers voice discontent

Negative comments about work culture aimed at CEO Chris Mazurkewich.

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Coquihalla drivers prepare for snow

Wintry conditions persist, with snow warnings for Coquihalla

Tychonik continues scoring run

Vees chalk up another win with Pink in the Rink

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

Most Read