They were forced from their homes this summer by the Two Mile Road wildfire, and now residents of the Two Mile area of Sicamous, B.C., are being warned that the blaze on the slope above their community has left them particularly vulnerable to debris flows.
Resident Jessie Kennedy said the fire this summer was “very traumatic,” and “the potential that there could be another natural disaster right on our heels was very alarming.”
“British Columbia has dealt with our fair share of natural disasters this year and it is only going to get worse, I think, if the powers that be don’t step up and do something for local residences,” Kennedy said.
The Shuswap Emergency Program held a public meeting Monday night to discuss the debris flow risk and talk about possible solutions.
Officials are particularly worried about the potential impact a debris flow could have on the Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park near Wiseman Creek.
The fire chief says a one in two-year rainfall could bring a moderate slide.
“But if it’s a 50-year event it could be devastating,” Sicamous Fire Chief Brett Ogino said.
“I’ve been through two pretty major events in our community. One affecting Swansea Point and then in 2012 Swansea Point and Sicamous. Certainly, I would call those 50-year events.
“We’ve seen them in short order so I don’t think it is out of the realm of possibility that we could have that kind of event. After this fall’s rainfall events that we’ve gone through, I think people need to pay attention to what’s going on. We’re concerned.”
An engineering firm that studied the area described a range of possible scenarios at the community meeting, but said the good news was that, “it is more likely that only a small debris flow occurs in 2022 or 2023 which may or may not reach the trailer park, than a large, destructive debris flow reaching the trailer park, leading to losses.”
The risk of a debris flow is believed to be highest in the next two years, so officials are hoping to get some mitigation infrastructure in place before heavy springtime rains.
However, Ogino points out there are a variety of challenges including limited time and questions about cost.
“That that’s why we are starting as quickly as we can,” Ogino said.
Geotechnical engineers are expected to provide more detailed information on possible mitigation options in January and in the meantime officials are looking to set up a neighbourhood emergency program so residents can help each other in the event of an evacuation.
“It really helps for identifying those that need assistance and really getting the messaging out so much quicker. If there is an evacuation alert that goes out to the neighbourhood emergency program and they are going to help spread that message so much quicker,” Ogino said.
The engineering firm also suggested a warning system could be put in place that would use rainfall forecasts to suggest when evacuation alerts or orders should be instituted.
Ogino said officials are looking at instituting a warning system along those lines.
Another idea that was floated by the engineering firm is moving the trailers, but that’s not popular with residents.
“A lot of the houses wouldn’t be able to be moved. A lot of people would end up with nowhere to go,” Kennedy said.