West Kelowna Mayor critical of evacuation centre process

The Bear Creek fire forced more than 600 people from their homes and campgrounds early Tuesday morning.

The Bear Creek fire forced more than 600 people from their homes and campgrounds early Tuesday morning.

Although safety was the first thing on the minds of most, inconvenience likely crawled up the list of concerns as many were forced to head north to Vernon, then make their way back to West Kelowna via Highway 97 to register at the evacuation centre.

“It must be frustrating for people to go all the way around,” said West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater.

Findlater said that he felt something should be done to make the evacuation process simpler.

“When the Terrace Mountain fire broke out in 2009, they had evacuated everybody from Traders Cove up to Westshore Estates: Quite a vast area,” said Findlater.

“In 2010 we had a fire at Sailview Bay, not very far from where this fire was, and it was right on the road. People again, from Bear Creek, Traders Cove and all that area, had to go north.”

Typically evacuees are asked to come to an emergency social services reception centre at Lions Hall in West Kelowna.

In the case of the 2009 Glenrosa and Rose Valley fires, evacuees made their way to Royal LePage Place.

“So you have people going all the way around north to Vernon and then coming back down. That’s a good hour and a half or two hours if there’s not a problem on the road,” said the mayor.

“You’ve got to get through both Vernon and Kelowna and those are challenges, particularly during rush hour.”

Findlater suggested setting up a reception centre in Vernon.

“One thought would be to get some kind of an agreement with the North Okanagan and the City of Vernon to perhaps have some kind of a reception centre up there for people who are evacuated.

“That might cost us some money, but it might be reciprocal. Perhaps we should have some kind of an arrangement inter-regionally because our regional program works so very well within the Central Okanagan.”

According to Findlater, the process will start by discussing the idea at a Central Okanagan Regional District meeting and seeing if there’s “any appetite” for it.

But the price tag of orchestrating such a procedure may be a factor, he cautioned.

“One of the big things about fires is cost. The cost can get away on you very quickly,” he said.

“This municipality has been very careful

about how we manage all of these things. There would need to be a financial analysis.”


Kelowna Capital News