There were more fires and hectares burned in the 2018 wildfire season compared to 2021.
But what made last year’s wildfires in South Okanagan different could be telling of what to expect in the next wildfire season, said Kerry Riess Regional District FireSmart coordinator.
“There were more evacuations and evacuation alerts in 2021 compared to 2018 and 2017 which tells us that those fires are becoming closer to our communities,” said Kerry Riess who was hired as the Regional District FireSmart coordinator in June 2021.
Riess was speaking to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board last Thursday about what the RDOS is going to do with new FireSmart funding it has received for this year.
In 2018, there were 124 evacuation alert orders and 66 evacuation orders.
In 2021, there were 304 evacuation alert orders and 181 evacuation orders. Neighbourhoods in Anarchist Mountain and Baldy Mountain were evacuated from their homes for weeks as firefighters fought day and night to keep flames from burning homes.
In that battle, no homes were lost in either area.
However, a few homes were lost in Oliver due to the Nk’Mip fire in 2021.
RDOS director Ron Obirek said he was evacuated from his Heritage Hills home in the Christie Mountain fire in 2020.
“Over 80 firefighters came to our community in August 2020, working so hard through the nights fighting those embers,” said Obirek. “Of the 320 homes at risk, only one house was lost and that’s because an ember bomb up the hill exploded and landed on the roof.”
“Those firefighters told me how impressed they were with all our FireSmarting in the area. They could tell it had been done,” he added.
Riess said they are working with $464,000 in grants to reduce the risk of wildfires.
“The goal is prevention through FireSmarting properties and through education,” said Riess.
He mentioned a recent clean-up day on Anarchist Mountain where the district provided lunch and neighbours cleaned up the forest floor of branches and dry debris.
Riess brings 12 years of experience with BC Wildfire Service as an Initial Attack Crew leader, Unit Crew leader, and Forest Protection assistant.
The RDOS received a $600,000 grant from the FireSmart Community funding and $120,000 through the FireSmart Economic Recovery Fund.
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