Valley should have better interface fire protection

In 2003 the McLure Fire tore through Louis Creek, destroying or damaging 72 homes and nine businesses

Wells Gray Country (Area A) director Tim Pennell is proposing a scaled-down version of a valley-wide fire protection service that failed to get adequate voter support last year.

Pennell’s new version would be for the area between the Clearwater and Vavenby fire protection areas – in other words, Birch Island.

Residents of the area will get to vote on the proposal this November on local government voting day.

Whether it will pass remains to be seen. There appears to be some strong opposition by some of those concerned.

Be that as it may, there still seems to be merit in the idea of a valley-wide fire protection service, but one that targets interface fires.

We often classify fires into two major types: structure fires and forest fires. There is a third kind of fire, however, the interface fire, which combine the first two.

In 1926 a forest fire swept north from Spahats and destroyed the farms and homes in the Clearwater Valley.

In 2003 the McLure Fire tore through Louis Creek, destroying or damaging 72 homes and nine businesses – and very nearly taking the community of Barriere with it.

It would be interesting to see a statistical comparison of the danger to a home of an individual structure fire versus that of an interface fire in a rural, forested area such as this. Every few years we get a structure fire that typically takes out one house or other building. Every few decades or (hopefully) centuries we can expect get an interface fire with the potential to destroy dozens or even hundreds of homes.

A forest fire can seem like a force of nature, and that nothing can stand in its way.

Sometimes that is true. Quite often, however, a few simple precautions and preparations can greatly reduce or even eliminate the damage that a forest fire can do to homes and other buildings.

Sometimes we hear it said that, between the BC Forest Service and the private forest fire contractors based in the North Thompson Valley, we have more than enough trained personnel and equipment to deal with any eventuality.

That might be true in winter. During a hot, dry summer, however, we can count on those resources being stationed anywhere in the province – and not necessarily here.

Union of BC Municipalities has a system of sprinkler lines mounted on trailers, ready to be hauled to wherever they are needed.

Again, this is a good resource, but not one we should rely on 100 per cent. If the choice is to save Kelowna or to save Clearwater, it’s easy to guess what the decision would be.

The North Thompson Valley should have its own sprinkler system and associated forest firefighting equipment, centrally located where it can be used to protect valley communities.


And we should have a force of trained volunteers ready to operate that equipment.