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Wildfire preparation urged in Okanagan

In September 2012, four structures were destroyed in the fast moving Trepanier wildfire that started near Peachland. Residents are being warned to expect more of the same this year.
In September 2012, four structures were destroyed in the fast moving Trepanier wildfire that started near Peachland. Residents are being warned to expect more of the same this year. File/ Global Okanagan

WEST KELOWNA, BC – Okanagan residents are being urged to prepare their properties to better avoid damage from a wildfire this year.

Everything from removing low branches and dry underbrush to irrigating yards and replacing roofing material can help.

“What you really want to focus on is separating the crowns (of trees),” says BC Forest Protection officer Dale Bojahra. “If you have so many trees that all the crowns are touching together, all the branches are touching, we want to avoid that. We want to open that up. And again, that prevents us from having a rolling crown fire. It forces the fire back down to the ground.”

Bojahra was offering ‘fire-smart’ advice Saturday at a workshop put on by West Kelowna Fire Rescue at the Rose Valley fire hall.

Bill and Dorothy Genge were going to head home to make some changes following Bojahra’s advice.

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“Maybe do a bit of weed whacking in an area that’s been left wild,” says Dorothy. Her husband plans to thin small trees that will grow too close together.

The Genge’s have good reason to take advice. Like many Okanagan residents, they live in the forest interface, which describes properties built right up against the forest.

While BC Forestry firefighters will help fight fires at the interface, “If you own the fuel, you own the fire,” according to Bojahra.

“When it comes to private property there’s no jurisdiction,” says Kerry Klonteig, West Kelowna Assistant Fire Chief. “It’s really the responsibility of home owner itself to take that on and deal with (hazardous forest fuels).”

In the last decade, the Okanagan has seen some devastating fires, including the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire that destroyed more than 230 homes in Kelowna (2003) and the Glenrosa (2009) and Peachland (2012) wildfires which more recently saw homes burned down in fast moving flames.

“We’re reminding people to expect more of that,” warns Bojahra. “This is a fire prone valley. Fire’s happen every year.”

Forest fire fuel mitigation work done by municipalities continues but residents are being asked to help.

“The more people can do, the more likely their homes will survive,” says Klonteig

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