It’s only been a few days since Peachland’s Keith Fielding found himself balancing the roles of evacuee and mayor of a town in crisis, but he’s already been able to glean a couple lessons from the experience.
“We’re quite fortunate. This could have been a major disaster,” Fielding said Tuesday, standing on the 8th hole at the Ponderosa golf course, looking over a ledge above the Trepanier Valley that clearly outlines where the fire was stymied in its march toward the city.
“This builds on the strength of understand of how to deal with an interface area … had (fire) gone through (here), it would have kept going through town.”
A plateau of rocky land is seemingly where the flames were stopped from spreading over the lower slopes of Pincushion Mountain and reaching the neighbourhoods off Ponderosa Drive, but that’s not the full story.
Fist sized embers were picked up by the wind, and dropped onto the course-under-construction, but they had little traction due to initiatives born out of the 2003 Okanagan Mountain fire.
Course owner Norm Porter explained the municipality insisted upon fuel management when the development was approved, which has meant pine cones and fallen branches have continually been cleared from the forested areas between the fairways and greens. Pruning and removing underbrush is also a key part of course upkeep.
The relevance of those initiatives, said Porter, was put to test this weekend, and passed with flying colours.
“Fire would race through the grass on the bottom, but it it wouldn’t remain long enough to catch the trees on fire,” Porter explained.
That’s not to say it wasn’t touch and go for awhile, he said. The show home on the course is just being completed, and was just a stone’s throw away from flames.
Luckily, it was spared, as were many of the homes on the other side of the ridge.
On Wednesday, the the final Evacuation Order was lifted at 5 p.m., but residents returning to their homes were reminded they’d be on Evacuation Alert and should be prepared to leave their homes with little or short notice.
Officials also warned that there’s still active fire suppression work continuing, and it’s best to stay out of the way of emergency vehicles and crews.
Night patrols involving RCMP as well as structural fire crews and BC Wildfire Management fire fighters, will continue until the fire is completely snuffed out and residents may continue to notice visible smoke rising from the fire site.
The District of Peachland has opened a Recovery Office to support Peachland residents who have been affected by the Trepanier Forest Fire. The office is located in the Peachland Municipal office, 5806 Beach Avenue and is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Residents with questions or needing assistance should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-767-6055, Extension 120.
Residents looking for information regarding aerial fire retardant on their properties can contact ICL at 1-250-554-3530, or via their website at www.phoschek.com.
The Regional District Parks Services advises as a result of the forest fire, Trepanier Creek Greenway Regional Park is closed until further notice. When conditions are safe a hazard assessment will be conducted to determine what work will be required to make the park safe again for the public.
New information and updates and a detailed map with the current Alert status is available on the Regional District Emergency Program website www.cordemergency.ca.