Firefighters in Kimberley say the wildfire risk remains a huge concern in the community.
Chief Rick Prasad has released detailed information on how the city would handle an evacuation in the event of a major blaze.
He says while there are no major blazes around the community, current conditions could easily lead to a disaster.
“There’s still huge concern about wildfire in the community. We’ve had smaller fires that we’ve been able to get to,” Prasad says. “We’re lucky that the forested areas are as used as they are, so that we have a lot of people watching out for this type of thing, so they can call us right away when they see something.”
Prasad adds while its unlikely residents will need to be evacuated, everyone needs to be prepared for a disaster.
“You gotta understand the scale of these fires when you get into category six and fives,” Prasad says. “There’s nothing we can do as firefighters or the Ministry can do, we just predict the path and if its heading toward town, we might be looking at evacuations.”
All open burning was banned in Kimberley on Friday, July 7th.
According to a release, Kimberley has been working for years to reduce potential threats to the community and under the advice of fire ecologists to reduce the interface fuels that pose the most threat to the community.
BC’s Wildfire Service advises the city of potential threats and has committed to prioritize resources for fires that may threaten populated areas.
If a fire is of a massive scale and difficult to contain, there are times populated areas must be evacuated under the advice of the Wildfire Service.
The City of Kimberley works actively with the Regional District of East Kootenay and both governments have plans that are interconnected. In the event of a large scale fire threatening the community, Wildfire Management would likely be the lead agency, estimating the fire’s intensity, direction and speed.
Following the hazard assessments, evacuations would be the probable course of action and directions would be provided to residents through various channels. The RCMP and other agencies like Search and Rescue would help carry out the evacuation plan.
Should a fire be determined to be an imminent threat to the community, The Mayor or Regional District Board Chair will declare a State of Local Emergency if extraordinary powers or resources are required to deal with the effects of an emergency or disaster.
The Kimberley Fire Department is capable of handling small scale Category one or two fires. The Wildfire Service would provide assistance for any larger blaze.
A large scale event would be managed through an incident command post at the Telus building in downtown Cranbrook. Should the event grow too large for the Emergency Operation Centre to support, the Provincial Regional Emergency Operations Centre would be activated. Beyond that is the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre, which is currently activated due to the fires in the province.
So far, 131 wildfires have burned 140 hectares in the Southeast District since April 1st.
– Kimberley Fire Chief Rick Prasad
– Jeff Johnson