Following a meeting between Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian and the executive of the Juniper Community Association on July 7, the Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer David Trawin met virtually with Minister of Municipal Affairs Josie Osbourne and Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Katrine Conroy as well as ministry staff on July 8 to address issues arising out of the July 1 fire in east Kamloops.
“We were fortunate with this particular incident,” said Mayor Christian. “We all have to maintain a high degree of situational awareness through the city with respect to interface fire. Be aware of the weather conditions and be aware of your surroundings. We need to be very vigilant this summer. We’ve seen record setting heat and drought, and with high winds, those are bad combinations – so we all need to be prepared.”
Four key areas were outlined in the discussion with the two Ministers:
- secondary access out of Juniper Ridge and a dedicated paved road to the west as an extension off Qu’Appelle Boulevard
- funding and support for implementing Voyent Alert for the City of Kamloops
- additional funding for interface fire protection, including prescribed burns
- provincial counselling services for the community when there is a wildfire
Secondary Access and Dedicated Paved Road
The need for a proper emergency access route with a long-term ability to turn that into a potential permanent paved route was acknowledged by all and initial support was indicated. As the City has built out Juniper Ridge, there was always a plan to extend the access out of Rose Hill and July 1, 2021 may well be the event that expedites that process. The new private subdivisions could be part of the solution because the more access through private property, the better. In the meeting with the two Ministers, Mayor Christian specifically addressed funding needs for this issue and the right-of-way across Crown land for the extension of Qu’Appelle Boulevard. He requested expedited process for right-of-way access to tie the extension of Qu’Appelle Boulevard into Rose Hill Road. Within hours of this meeting, David Trawin received calls from ministry staff initiating conversations about beginning that process.
The Ministers were very supportive of municipalities beginning to include emergency alert technology in BC communities. Mayor Christian requested funding support for acquiring Voyent Alert in Kamloops.
Interface Fire Protection
The City of Kamloops actively participates in mitigation and prevention initiatives through its Community Wildfire Protection Plan in conjunction with other similar city plans and the FireSmart program. However, the risk from both wildfire (grasslands, brush, and forests) and interface fire (where a wildfire impacts property, buildings, and/or people) needs increased funding. Mayor Christian acknowledged the funding the City receives from the Province each year for this fire mitigation work but highlighted that given the amount of money received, the City can only do small areas. He requested increased funding to expand this work.
Provincial Counselling Supports
Mayor Christian addressed the provincial specialized counselling services specific to fire trauma, which is currently being offered to Lytton residents. He requested that the Province consider extending these resources to Juniper Ridge and Valleyview residents. Currently, the City is working with the two neighbourhood associations to arrange counselling for Juniper Ridge and Valleyview residents. In addition to this request from the Province, the City is also hosting three post-incident trauma support sessions for residents impacted by the Kamloops East Fire event. The sessions will run today (July 12) and registration is not required. For more information click here.
The City and the Province have a good working relationship, and these preliminary meetings helped to set the stage for ongoing dialogue and planning. Kamloops Mayor and Council are committed to this dialogue and to engaging with the community on an ongoing basis to learn from the July 1 experience and to plan improved processes.