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New highway too slow for Lake Country emergency crews who choose Pelmewash

Emergency crews set up at the beginning of the new Highway 97 earlier this year. The new highway and the Pelmewash Parkway have changed the way emergency crews are responding to incidents in Lake Country. - Lake Country Calendar file
Emergency crews set up at the beginning of the new Highway 97 earlier this year. The new highway and the Pelmewash Parkway have changed the way emergency crews are responding to incidents in Lake Country.
— image credit: Lake Country Calendar file

Once a nightmare for emergency crews in Lake Country, the old Highway 97 along Wood Lake—Pelmewash Parkway—has now become the fastest route for emergency vehicles needing to travel quickly between Winfield and Oyama.

As the traveling public flies through Lake Country on the new Highway 97, the construction of the new highway has freed up Pelmewash Parkway for a quick route between Winfield and Oyama.

"With the new highway, it's really good for the commuting pubic," said Lake Country deputy fire chief Brent Penner. "But the old highway is actually fairly good for emergency response. It's cutting down our response times."

One recent incident put the spotlight on the emergency response between Winfield an Oyama. Late last month Lake Country firefighters were gathered in Winfield for training when they were called to a incident in Oyama as a man had fallen into Wood Lake at the north end of the lake between it and Kalamalka Lakes.

The fire truck went full code 3—lights and sirens—and used Pelmewash Parkway, a relatively quiet stretch of road since the switch to the new highway.

"With the new highway you actually have to go past Oyama before turning back," said Penner. "Now there are very few people on Pelmewash. Those people can see you and there is a lot of time to get around them as opposed to a whole highway of traffic."

Penner said the old highway used to be a nightmare for emergency crews having to respond as the volume of traffic on the two-lanne stretch made it very slow, especially if the accident were on the old highway.

"All that traffic that used to be on the highway, no one had any room to pull over for you," he said. "It wasn't a very safe scenario. With the two roads it's way better. If we need to get to Oyama road, our response times are down quite a bit."

In the incident in late April, crews made it quickly to the man in Wood Lake and were able to continue CPR before paramedics arrived on scene and transported the man to hospital.

Previously the availability of both the old and new highway also came into play when the new Highway was closed for a short time due to a potential landslide. Crews at that time were able to easily re-route traffic onto Pelmewash and avoid having to send traffic through Oyama and around Wood Lake as they were forced to do in the past.

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