The 2021 wildfire season is upon us, and the Regional District of North Okanagan is sharing information and tips for people that live in remote, isolated communities in the region. Communities away from city centres can pose unique challenges, and rural residents have some unique considerations to prepare themselves.
Limited Access Communities and Evacuations
If a fire starts in your area, BC Wildfire will monitor its growth and movement. If there is any potential for the fire to threaten people or property, the RDNO and BC Wildfire Service will inform residents as soon as possible. Rural residents can also prepare themselves ahead of an Evacuation Alert or Order by:
- Monitoring the weather and forecasted wind conditions – this could strongly influence the progression of wildfires.
- Listen to local radio, television and social media for information on possible fire activity in your area.
- Be prepared and ready to react early. If you feel like you are in danger, move out before an Evacuation Order is put in place. If you evacuate voluntarily, Emergency Support Services would not be available until authorities give the official instruction to evacuate. Special authorized “early evacuation for persons-in-need” can be arranged, and ESS can be provided early. Contact the RDNO at 250-550-3299 for more details.
How Evacuation Routes and Reception Centres are Determined
Given the unpredictable nature of wildfires, the evacuation strategy is unique to fit each scenario. It’s difficult to say exactly where you may be evacuated since fire activity can change rapidly and cause officials to choose a different evacuation route and location for the reception centre.
The decision on how to leave and where to go will be made by BC Wildfire Service, the Ministry of Transportation or the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources based on current fire activity, location and proximity to roadways. Crews, such as RCMP and Search and Rescue, will knock on doors to inform evacuating residents of the instructions. The RDNO supports these agencies by implementing Local States of Emergency, Evacuation Alerts and Orders, and communicating to the public.
Key Actions for Rural Residents in Preparing Themselves
- Be Prepared to be self-sustainable for 72 hours minimum by preparing a pre-packed bag with essential items that you can easily load and go if instructed.
- Make arrangements – Have somewhere to go to. Family, friends, somewhere away from the affected area and somewhere that can accommodate you and your dependents, including pets if required.
- Keep vehicles fueled throughout the summer in case of the need to evacuate.
- Include important documentation you might need: ID, insurance, passports etc.
- Pick a meeting point for your family – Choose a familiar meeting point for the family in advance in case you are evacuated separately. An Order could be implemented when family members are at school, work or running errands. If you are evacuated, you must first follow the instructions of the emergency personnel, then refer to your family’s communication plan, which should include a plan on how to make sure everyone knows how to get ahold of one another.
- Check out the PreparedBC website for more information on what to include in an emergency plan and grab and go bag.
- Take action now to FireSmart your property. Simple actions can make your property more resilient in the event of a wildfire. From cleaning your roof and gutters to moving firewood and potential fuels, there are surprisingly easy steps you can take to make your home FireSmart. Learn more at www.firesmartbc.ca
The RDNO recognizes that this is a stressful time for our region and broader province. Taking steps to have a family emergency plan, learning about what you could expect if evacuated, and also understanding that experts are working tirelessly to keep you safe and are prepared to adapt to the unique challenges of each wildfire can help ease some of those worries. Remain vigilant, prepared, and safe.