By David F. Rooney
The forest fire that overwhelmed Slave Lake, Alberta, was not an isolated event. One of Kelowna’s neighbourhoods was burned in 2003. And a similar wildfire could happen here, too.
“We can get high and extreme wildfire conditions here in Revelstoke for 20 days a year on average – and for up to 2 months in years like 2003,”says a statement quoting Archie McConnachie, retired manager of the Revelstoke wildfire base and a member of the team that has produced a report entitled, Wildfire Risk Mapping Enhancement to the Revelstoke Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
“We all need to ramp up our preparedness and start reducing the wildfire fuels in forests on our properties and around the community.”
Wildfires that involve buildings and wildland vegetation simultaneously are known as interface fires. There hasn’t been one here — yet — but such fires present unique challenges and obstacles that must be addressed through practical, proactive and community-based solutions.
The report includes recommendations for improved infrastructure protection, community education and awareness, wildfire preparedness, fuel management, fire suppression and emergency responses up to and including evacuation. Fuel management recommendations include removing dead materials, pruning trees and reducing tree density in some forests around infrastructure and in strategic locations to reduce wildfire intensity. The project encompasses the Revelstoke Fire Protection Area, which includes portions of the adjacent Columbia Shuswap Regional District, and forests within 2 kilometres of the Protection Area. Many recommendations emphasize the need for the City, residents and businesses to adopt FireSmart Community practices. To learn more about FireSmart practices go to http://bcwildfire.ca/Prevention/firesmart.htm or pick up a pamphlet at the Fire Station.
Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services Chief Rob Girard said the City is now seeking input from area residents. The draft report will be available on the City’s website next week or paper copies can be borrowed from the Fire Station.
The public are invited to discuss the report with the Fire Chief, the project team and Committee members at an open house and presentation on Tuesday, June 14 beginning at 6:30 pm at the Fire Station, with a brief presentation at 7:30 pm. Or attend one of the following neighbourhood meetings where the risk ratings and recommendations for each neighbourhood will be reviewed:
- Clearview and Johnson Heights – June 20, 7 pm at the Coast Hillcrest Hotel
- Arrow Heights and Airport Bench – June 27, 7 pm at the Arrow Heights School
- Begbie Bench – June 28, 7 pm at the Nordic Ski Lodge
The Community Wildland Fire Protection Committee includes wildfire specialists from the BC Wildfire Management Branch and Parks Canada as well as representatives from other land management agencies, community groups and citizen representation. The draft report is available for public review and comment until July 8.
The province’s Wildfire Management Branch threat says the risk of wildfire will always be imminent in organized and unorganized areas if prevention measures are not taken into consideration, planned, and implemented in advance.
“As more new developments grow in forested areas and new dwellings are built in natural areas, the public at large should be aware of and united against the problems related to wildfire and the preventative actions required to augment the efforts of organized firefighting services,” it says.