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West Kelowna mayor, fire chief offer wildfire prevention tips

With the recent hot weather, there is an increased risk of wildfire in the Okanagan.

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater and Fire Chief Wayne Schnitzler are cautioning residents and visitors to protect themselves and others from wildfire.

"When the temperatures rise like we are seeing this week, with no break on the horizon, I always think back to 2009 and the wildfires we suffered through for many days," said Findlater, who was evacuated twice during that summer.

"Everyone who went through that experience is extra cautious I believe, but visitors or newcomers may not know what they can do to prevent forest fires."

Schnitzler said the time is right to remind everyone to be extra cautious.

"Any spark from a motorcycle, any open fire or any wayward firework could cause a forest fire," said Schnitzler.

"With more and more people coming to the Okanagan to enjoy themselves in our forests and on our lakes, there is more risk that we will see wildfire.

"Human-caused fires are much more common than naturally occurring fires and completely preventable too."

Human-related incidents result in more than 700 wildfires throughout B.C. every year.

In the last 11 years, the Okanagan has experienced devastating fires, including the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire that destroyed more than 230 homes in 2003.

Risk is greatly reduced by following these tips:

- Do not use fireworks. Discharging fireworks is illegal in the District of West Kelowna without permission from the fire chief. Fireworks and sky lanterns are also prohibited by the Wildfire Management Branch

- Completely extinguish campfires and never leave a fire unattended. Douse with water and stir ashes until cold. Monitor the wind and don't burn or create an open campfire in windy conditions. Have at least eight litres of water and a hand tool nearby to extinguish your campfire

- Do not throw away cigarettes, matches or smoking materials from a motor vehicle or on park grounds. Make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before discarding

- Follow all posted guidelines regarding open and backyard burning. Check regularly with the Kamloops Fire Centre, 250-554-5500, or visit bcwildfire.ca for the latest information

- Remove combustible material and shut off natural gas or propane before leaving your residence for an extended period

- Contact 911 or the fire department if you notice an unattended fire or the illegal discharge of fireworks.

For more information about fire use outside the district boundaries, contact your local Wildfire Management Branch.

To report a wildfire or unattended campfire, call toll-free 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on most cellular networks.

 

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