Amidst the fire, smoke and disruption of two major interface fires and hundreds of overnight evacuations, one thing has become very clear – the people of Oliver and Midway are some of the most resilient, generous and compassionate in British Columbia.
Premier Christy Clark, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson and Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson saw this first hand today, visiting the communities and hearing stories of close calls, survival and assistance from those who escaped the blaze and those who now are helping them recover.
“Some people only had minutes to leave their homes or campsites, many with only the clothes on their backs. In speaking with evacuees and volunteers today, I have been inspired by their stories of kindness for others,” said Premier Clark. “Our government will do everything possible through all available support programs to stand shoulder to shoulder with these communities in their time of need.”
At the Salvation Army in Kelowna, volunteers working for the Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team are busy collecting supplies for horses in need. Farmers and ranchers throughout the region are offering to transport and care for evacuated animals. Small businesses are stepping up and offering food, blankets and other supplies for people who have been evacuated from their homes.
“B.C.’s firefighters have turned their full attention to doing everything possible to keep Rock Creek, Westbridge, Oliver and the people who live here safe, and keep these fires back,” said Thomson. “To think, much of the destruction and disruption in Rock Creek looks to have been caused by the careless behaviour of an individual failing to be fire safe. It is an absolute tragedy and we must redouble our efforts to prevent human-caused forest fires.”
“In the middle of this terrible disaster, the citizens of these small communities have banded together to make lunches, provide clothing and offer shelter for those in need,” said Larson. “The volunteers who have been working tirelessly to provide this support deserve the thanks of all British Columbians.”
As of this morning, the Testalinden Creek fire south of Oliver was 1,566 hectares and the Wilson's Mountain Road fire north of Oliver was 317 hectares. Between the two, they have resulted in the evacuation of 371 homes and have destroyed two structures.
Provincial supports available:
Farmers impacted by the wildfire may be eligible for compensation for losses through Production Insurance, AgriStability or AgriInvest.
To learn more, visit: http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/emergency/AGRIRiskManagementToolsForAgriculture2012.pdf
Resources for the latest emergency information:
- BC gov fire info: http://bcwildfire.ca/situation/
- Emergency Info BC: http://www.embc.gov.bc.ca/em/index.html
- Drive BC: http://www.drivebc.ca/
- Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen: http://www.rdos.bc.ca/
- Regional District of Kootenay Boundary: http://www.rdkb.com/Default.aspx
Mike Morris, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, has been tasked with reviewing the fines and penalties associated with human-caused wildfires. Current penalties are:
- Failure to comply with the Wildfire Act or wildfire regulation may result in a ticket:
- Fail to report a fire: $115
- Drop, release, or mishandle a burning substance: $173
- Fail to extinguish a burning substance: $173
- Light, fuel or use fire against restrictions: $345
- Anyone found in contravention of an open fire prohibition may be issued a ticket for $345, required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail.
- If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.