Record-pushing heat in the Okanagan over the long weekend has Penticton’s fire chief urging locals and visitors alike to be smart, lest they inadvertently spark a wildfire.
Currently, campfires are still allowed in the Kamloops Fire Centre, which encompasses the Okanagan Valley, although in the City of Penticton a fire permit is required.
“If you are going to have a fire in your backyard you need to have a registered fire pit and you can do that at City Hall or the Penticton Fire Department,” fire chief Larry Watkinson said.
Other concerns include the extreme temperatures hitting the region, with both heat and wind.
“With those two things combined it creates very dry indices for wildfire conditions in the Okanagan Valley, and right now we’re seeing upwards of high to extreme fire danger ratings in the South Okanagan. In particular in Penticton, we’re at a high to extreme condition. What we’re seeing is the rate of spread of a fire develops very rapidly,” Watkinson explained.
His department is addressing that through updated staffing and response protocols, and working closely with the BC Wildfire Service.
“We’re not staffing up but we are changing our response protocols,” Watkinson said. “Right now the protocol is, we will respond to any smoke that is in or around the area, and then we will transfer authority to the particular agency that has authority for that area.”
Thankfully, it’s been so far, so good this week as temperatures have risen.
“We haven’t had [any major incidents] locally. So that’s good for us. I think the awareness, people understanding the conditions out there is certainly helping but as we have visitors and guests to our community, that awareness is not the same,” Watkinson said.
“Let’s be fire smart. If you’re going to be camping in the wild country, a non-registered campground, just be sure you put your campfires out securely. Be responsible, let’s keep them to a small size that is enjoyable, and make sure that if you go to sleep, your fire’s out completely and if you leave it unattended you need to make sure it’s cold to the touch.”