Kathy Michaels/Capital News A view of the Okanagan Mountain Park fire on Wednesday from the west side of the lake.

Forestry manager isn’t surprised wildfire burns in same area as 2003 firestorm

Kelowna - “We’re in a fire-prone ecosystem.”

On the 15th anniversary year of the firestorm that destroyed more than 240 Kelowna homes, a forestry manager for Gorman Brothers Lumber says he isn’t surprised a new fire sparked close to where the old one began in Okanagan Mountain Park.

Kerry Rouck, forestry manager for the company, said the hot temperatures and dry climate make good conditions for wildfires.

“We’re in a fire-prone ecosystem. Our ecosystems require fire to regenerate and stay healthy and we’ve excluded them for so many years and now we have buildups of fuel that wouldn’t otherwise exist,” he said.

At the time of the 2003 firestorm, Gorman Brothers had special permission to clear out dead trees affected by the Douglas fir pine beetle infestation east of the park.

Although the number of dead pine beetle trees found tapered off in 2012, with mature forests there’s an elevated fire risk, Rouck said.

The conversation around fuel management seems to happen every few years after a significant wildfire event, he said.

“In 2003, there were the big fires and there was about a three-year window that kind of tapered off and in 2009 there were more fires and there was more talk about fuel managed and with last year’s fires, fuel management becomes another hot topic for a few years. So what we’re kind of seeing is that we’re getting more of these big fire years are spaced closer together, so the awareness and drive for fuel management is consistent,” Rouck said.

The forestry company works with the regional district, First Nations groups and the province to manage wildfire fuel between cities and commercial logging sites, he said.

Gorman has been working with the Penticton Indian Band, supported by the Okanagan Nation Alliance, in order to manage forest debris, conduct ecosystem restoration and perform industrial logging, Rouck said.

“It’s cheaper to deal with it up front than to pay money to rebuild,” Rouck said.

Gorman Brothers has an active forestry site located to the east of the park.

In 2003, more than 5,000 residents were evacuated as part of the second largest evacuation in Canadian history, according to an Environment and Climate Change article.

“At the height of the fire season, 7,600 civilian firefighters and nearly 2,000 military (personnel) were fighting the blazes,” it said.

The fire eventually spread into the Upper Mission area destroying homes and then carried on into Myra Canyon where it damaged 12 Kettle Valley Railway trestles.

The 2017 wildfire season was one of the worst seasons in B.C. history, with the cost of fire suppression estimated to be more than $568 million, according to the province.

The province did not respond to requests for comment from the Capital News by press deadline Thursday afternoon.

Just Posted

Vandalism closes public washrooms in Penticton’s Okanagan Lake Park indefinitely

A post by the city’s Facebook said the damage is ‘quite extensive’

Okanagan Water Board opens floodgates with call for grant applications

Water Conservation and Quality Improvement program open from Armstrong to Osoyoos

Community safety, recreation and culture first topics of discussion in Penticton’s 2020 budget

Penticton RCMP clocked roughly 6,000 hours of overtime in ten months, at a cost of $422k

Three-vehicle crash in Penticton sends one to hospital

The Penticton RCMP are looking to speak with anyone who may have witnessed the collision

City releases tips and tricks to stay safe over holiday season

Included below is a list of revised garbage and recycling days, and rules for curbside collection

Video: Magicians and Bubble Wonders highlight Penticton Shriners Variety Show

The annual fundraiser filled the Cleland Community Theatre on Sunday.

Raptors fans show Kawhi the love in his return to Toronto

Leonard receives championship ring, leads new club to win

Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

Canadian flight museum suggests Alex Bahlsen of Mill Bay died in Tuesday’s crash

Disturbing find: Shuswap family seeking Christmas tree locates several animal carcasses

Black bear, a coyote and five deer found dumped in gravel pit west of Salmon Arm

RCMP uncover meth in arrest of Sicamous woman linked to alleged pellet gun shooting

Police say methamphetamine and other drugs found in car driven by suspect

Pawsative Pups: Help your dog love their crate

Lisa Davies is a new columnist for Black Press who writes about dog training

Spark Joy: The art of giving and receiving

Barb and Wendy at Simply Spark Joy help you to create a clutter free home on the Black Press Media

Coldstream surf shop welcomes winter with paddle

Winter Chill event Saturday, Dec. 21, on Kal Lake is ‘food’-raiser for food bank

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

Most Read