Preparing for wildfire season, residents of this West Kelowna neighborhood are asking for more exit routes
The Municipality of Central Okanagan should consider creating more routes to escape the fires, says Terry Triechel, who has lived in the Glenrosa neighborhood of West Kelowna for more than four decades.
Triechel was one of the neighborhood residents to receive evacuation alerts during the fires that ravaged the region last summer.
“A secondary road would be nice,” he told CBC’s Joseph Otoo.
“Unfortunately, where we’re sitting right now, the only way is up – there’s really nowhere to go unless you have an all-terrain vehicle.”
Over 400 households along Glenrosa Road were ordered to evacuate on August 15, 2021 due to the Mount Law Wildfirecausing serious traffic jams.
Like Triechel, many West Kelowna residents are calling for better emergency and evacuation routes in areas affected by wildfires.
Viable alternative exit route needed
Over the past two months, the City of West Kelowna has led the first phase of public consultation on its transportation master plan, where many local residents said it was time to build a reliable route out of Glenrosa, a neighborhood of over 6,000 people.
Glenrosa Residents Association President Tasha Da Silva said Glenrosa Road is currently the only viable way for her neighbors to flee to Highway 97.
Da Silva adds that Jackpine Forest Service Road, the only alternate route, is not ideal for wildfire evacuation.
“[The road] forces you to go up into the forest … if there’s a forest fire, you don’t want to go towards it, ”she told host Chris Walker on CBC South Dawn.
“They’re trying to keep it going, but it’s still a very long way when you have so many people you need to evacuate.”
Da Silva says her association has worked with the city to explore options for a viable second escape route, including a junction that connects Glenrosa to Smith Creek and Glen Canyon, but she admits that option is costly and could take a long time to build. .
“It’s a $100 million project, so it’s not just a city decision,” she said.
“There would have to be funding from all levels of government. They’re working on it, but it’s a 20-year plan.”
Get ready for next fire season, fire chief says
Meanwhile, West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said he is asking local residents to prepare for the upcoming fire season by packing an emergency kit with supplies for 72 hours and participating in the city program. FireSmart Grant Programwhich funds home building projects that help reduce the impacts of fires on properties.
“Fire-Smart [are] things they can do around their homes to better defend them and give the fire department a better chance of saving that home if a wildfire occurs,” Brolund said.
The city says it will launch the second phase of public consultation on its transportation master plan this summer, and the third phase this fall.