Penticton mayor says costs prohibitive for rural fire service

Spiller Road resident calling for better water availability following fire that threatened to spread to nearby forest

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton says there is no quick-fix solution to improve fire service systems for rural areas of the city.

The mayor was responding to calls from a Spiller Road resident for better water availability following what could have been a catastrophic interface fire last weekend at a neighbour’s home.

“Yes, interface fires are a great concern to us and that’s why we have this mutual aid with Naramata (volunteer fire department) and with forestry (B.C. Forest Service),” said Ashton Thursday. “It was an incredibly unfortunate incident and thank God no one was hurt, but for the city to get infrastructure up there just to service X amount of homes is a phenomenal cost.

“It’s a rural part of the community, and to have that type of a lifestyle there are certain amenities you do without, especially when you’re on the fringes of the community. I mean they’re still on wells up there.”

Steve Boultbee, who lives about a 100 yards from the house that burned, said had conditions been drier and more windy the situation would have been far worse.

Penticton Fire Rescue officials agreed, saying the fact June had been the wettest month on record was a big factor in their being able to keep the blaze from spreading in the heavily wooded area.

On Thursday, Boultbee talked with the mayor and met with fire chief Wayne Williams about the matter and intends to pursue it through council.

“I think what is muddying the waters is they’re (city) linking this with potable water, and I agree it would be a lot of money. Let’s do non-potable water and put in part of the system which could be added to later, and I think we could do that for a much more reasonable cost.

“After all, what would the cost be of a fire that left here and moved through town? Fires do not discriminate between income, values or boundaries.”

He also believes the city has the money, but it would require allocation of funds, and questioned the value of paving roads compared to saving property and lives.

Meanwhile, Ashton also has concerns about putting a reservoir for water storage in the region as suggested by Boultbee.

He suggested home owners also look at implementing their own safeguards such as sprinkler systems. Increased density in the region, such as the 115-lot subdivision which is currently on hold, will help reduce costs of adding infrastructure for the region, added the mayor.

“But I mean you can’t provide everything to everybody in the community when you’re outside of your core services area, you just can’t,” said Ashton.