Wildfires: protecting homes

The tinder dry underbrush surrounding homes at Gallagher's Canyon makes area resident Merv Vincent more than a little concerned.

It was 11 years ago when he and his family were evacuated from their home during the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire.

“If a live ember had of come here, and this had caught fire,” says Vincent, pointing to the brush below his home. “It would have moved up the hill and got the houses. When we left we had considerable concern. Will we have a house to come home to?”

Earlier this year, the strata council at Gallagher's Canyon asked residents to remove flammable items from around their homes, but Vincent had a better idea.

A task he put into motion the morning before he was evacuated back in 2003; he cleared the underbrush along the green belt below several homes.

“It dawned on me, no one had raked or cleaned up out here in the 10 years since that (fire), and so I sent them (the strata) a little email. For me this is the bigger concern.”

At the start of August several residents banded together, along with Kelowna Fire Department, to reduce the risk of a wildfire spreading to nearby homes through urban interface mitigation.

“Members of the community, who live up in this strata complex are coming in and they are raking it, and getting rid of all this dead debris. And they will bring it down to the road where it will be loaded up and taken to the landfill,” explains Rick Euper with the Kelowna Fire Department.

Gallagher's Canyon is the first area to participate in the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, although the city has identified three other areas with a large number of homes that are at risk of a wildfire due to dead underbrush.

  • Quail Ridge
  • Mckinley Landing
  • North Clifton area

Strata President Len Koltun says during the first work party, at the start of August, about 21 volunteers showed up to help out and again today (Wednesday) the same number of residents stopped by to lend a hand.

“We know we will never get it 100 per cent, but that is OK, people are busy. As a matter of fact, one lady who was busy, brought over 140 garbage bags and a 140 bottles of water to my house the other day.”

Brenda McLeod recently moved to the area and was surprised at how much dead underbrush had accumulated behind the homes.

“I have just sort of heard about the fires in the area so I wanted to make sure I am contributing to help make our community safer,” she explains.

Gallagher's Canyon residents will hold another working party later in the month.

For more information on the Community Wildfire Protection Plan go to Kelowna.ca.


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