West Kelowna  

Chief Jason Brolund looking forward to celebration but ready for another fire season

Fire risk still 'very real'

The accolades and thanks for West Kelowna firefighters continue.

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund accepted an award at West Kelowna city hall Tuesday, to commemorate the team effort during the McDougall Creek wildfire last summer.

Up next is the Okanagan Wildfire Responders Gratitude Event which takes place at West Kelowna's Memorial Park April 27. The event will include live music, food and special activities including a gratitude ceremony.

"I am excited about this ceremony that the community group has put together, I think it's gonna be a great day. I'm also looking at it as an opportunity to try and honour all 10,000 people who were involved in this fire. If you've got half an hour, I can start listing them," Brolund says.

Brolund says support from the public over the past several months has been helpful.

"It helps in a few ways. One is during the fire, the outpouring of public support was a real boost for all of us. Now I have the opportunity in a couple of weeks here at this public event to say we're grateful for all of the appreciation of the public."

But Brolund says the job is not done.

"There is something the public can do for us now. Follow the FireSmart principles, and do those simple things around your home in order to make our job easier.

"It's just anecdotal. But every time I see a trailer load of cedar hedges go into the landfill, I'm happy. Our FireSmart coordinator has an extensive waiting list for home assessments. I think we have over 100 people on our waiting list to have their homes assessed."

Brolund says being FireSmart isn't about being perfect, but about making changes that can make a big difference if a wildfire breaks out.

"People don't need us to do an assessment. They can Google 'FireSmart' and get that information. And you know, it's going to be a warm weekend out there. No better time to go out and do some of these things in your yard," says Brolund.

For those who think there's nothing left to burn in the Okanagan, Brolund says, think again.

"When I look at what is burned around our community, it's in pockets, we still have a significant number of neighbourhoods where there's still a very real risk. And we can't use the previous fire as an excuse not to get prepared if it were to happen again."

The West Kelowna Fire Department welcomed 19 new firefighters after the McDougall Creek wildfire.

"We had a batch of new recruits last year who for many of them, the first fire they went to was the McDougall Creek fire. What an indoctrination into the fire service that was."

For more information about the gratitude event click here.

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