It’s a great time of the year to be in the gorgeous, sunny Okanagan.
It’s a pleasure to live in an area where we can enjoy warm summer temperatures, where the beaches are plentiful and where residents can head out to the great outdoors to go camping or share amazing backcountry adventures.
You don’t have to go far, however, before you’re reminded of the catastrophic wildfires of 2003.
In Kelowna, more than 33,000 people were evacuated and 238 homes were lost or damaged.
Although the fire scars on the hillsides are becoming greener, they serve as constant reminders of the impact of wildfires.
I am proud to live in a province that is recognized around the world for excellence in wildfire prevention and management.
We are fortunate to have world-class, dedicated professionals in B.C.’s Wildfire Management Branch, who are committed to ensuring a quick, skillful, and strategic response to wildfires.
They also toil tirelessly in our communities and forests to reduce wildfire risks.
There’s also another group of people that play an important role in preventing wildfires—the public.
You need to report wildfires or abandoned campfires, use fire responsibly and do what you can to help prevent catastrophic wildfires.
Nearly 50 per cent of wildfires each year are caused by people.
Discarded cigarette butts, fireworks, unattended campfires, or sparks from recreational activities could all lead to wildfires that threaten our families, homes and communities.
These human-caused wildfires also divert resources from naturally occurring wildfires, so please be careful with your outdoor activities, especially during the summer.
Another thing people can do to reduce wildfire impacts is to apply FireSmart principles to their properties, by identifying fire risks and then minimizing those risks.
Homeowners, industry, and governments all have a responsibility to help reduce wildfire threats.
Take a few minutes to assess the 10-metre perimeter of your home.
An open, fuel-free space gives firefighters a better chance to protect your home from an advancing fire.
What can you do?
• Remove any shrubs, trees, deadfall or woodpiles from this area.
• Keep your grass mowed and watered.
• Ensure that your roof and gutters are clear of needles, leaves or other combustible materials.
• Select fire-resistant landscaping and maintain a three- to six-metre spacing between trees.
• Reduce fire fuels by thinning and pruning trees as needed.
• Prepare an emergency fire and evacuation plan and ensure that everyone in your home is familiar with it.
For information about current wildfire conditions or FireSmart principles, visit www.bcwildfire.ca.
Thank you for taking an active part in reducing wildfire threats in our neighbourhoods. As we experience the growing effects of climate change, our fire seasons are expected to become more volatile due to hotter and drier summers.
Together, we can all do our part to help keep the Okanagan a safe and enjoyable summer paradise.
Steve Thomson is
the Liberal MLA for