A quick response from ground and air kept losses from a July wildfire to a single house last July.                                 Western News file photo

A quick response from ground and air kept losses from a July wildfire to a single house last July. Western News file photo

Reducing the risk of wildfire in Kaleden

Kaleden community organizing forum to plan for future wildfires

The wildfire that tore through Kaleden in early July was a wakeup call for the small community.

“A lot of people in the community were kind of taken by surprise by what happened and the magnitude of it all,” said Linda Dahl, fire information officer.

“It just made people really aware of how vulnerable we are. We are just sitting right here on the slope, and that fire could have raged through and taken way more houses.”

Related: Firefighters in critical hour to keep Kaleden blaze at bay before sundown

Now that the fire season is over, the Kaleden Community Association is organizing a community forum, with the support of the KVFD, Regional District of Okanagan -Similkameen and the B.C. Wildfire Service.

The forum, intended for those within and neighbouring the Kaleden Fire Protection District, takes place at the Kaleden Community Hall on Nov. 28 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Dahl said that besides the community wanting to talk about what they could do in the future, they also had questions about how the emergency response was handled.

“It was kind of an opportunity … to pull all those resources in, have them explain what happens in an emergency at that level and who has what role,” said Dahl. “We had support from forestry and air, and the regional district has to come in and support the community because of the evacuation.”

Residents will be asked to consider creating a FireSmart community plan, with the goal of reducing the effect on properties and the community from future wildfires.

“Just because we had a wildfire doesn’t mean that we are never going to have another one,” said Dahl, adding that there are many factors residents need to be aware of before and during a wildfire emergency.

Dahl said that as people looked around after the fire at big areas of long grass and buildup of pine needles, they wondered about how to manage such areas.

“Some people have big pieces of property and you can’t go and mow everything down. ‘If I can’t mow the whole thing down, can I do a guard around the edge? What can I do right around my house?’,” Dahl said, listing questions she has heard.

Another topic is the community’s responsibility during the emergency.

“If you are asked to leave the area, that is what you need to do. It is hard for resources to be coming in if everybody is trying to get in for their great photo,” said Dahl. “The lake, that is a big issue — convincing people to stay away while the helicopters are working.

“People always seem to think they will just get in as close as they can. Then they are still in the way.”

People also need to have a plan for how to get out in an emergency and where to gather, plus doing things like registering with emergency services.

“Instead of trying to get back in the community and fighting with the RCMP, have a plan as a family so you know where you are going to go,” said Dahl. “You know that if your kids were at the beach, somebody would have brought them to the community centre and that is where you are going to be able to find them rather than everyone trying to run around town. It was pretty chaotic.”

“It definitely is something people need to talk about. We are all vulnerable, our summers here are hot and really dry,” said Dahl. “It comes down to neighbour helping neighbours too.”

Copies of the FireSmart homeowner manual will be available at the forum.